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Tadpole makes leap to Opteron

The company, which builds portable workstations, plans to use an Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chip normally found in servers and desktop workstations.

Tadpole Computer, which makes portable workstations, plans to start using an Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chip normally found in servers and desktop workstations.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker already makes a portable workstation that uses Sun Microsystems' UltraSparc processor designed for servers and desktop workstations. But Tadpole may be the first company to do the same with the Opteron, which came out last April.

In general, workstations are desktop computers outfitted with top-of-the-line hardware that allows them to tackle complicated tasks such as mechanical design. Tadpole, however, is one of the few companies to pack all of that hardware into a notebook, thus allowing engineers to take high-end software into the field. The company's Opteron machine will tackle markets such as software development, scientific applications and product design.

Such efficiency doesn't come cheap, though. The company's current line of notebooks have ranged in price from $3,000 to $12,000.

Tadpole will announce its Opteron plans on Tuesday, according to information from a company representative.

The move is part of the company?s efforts to expand its customer base following a March 2003 employee buyout. In the buyout, employees bought the hardware assets of its U.K.-based parent company. The former parent company is now known as Tadpole Technology.

Like Sun, which launched an Opteron server line in February, Tadpole will design its Opteron machine to offer its customers more options when it comes to running 64-bit software. The Opteron chip can run both 32-bit software, which is the most commonly used kind of software today, and 64-bit software, which is more widely used with servers.

Tadpole will have a fairly unique position. While portable workstations are relatively common, most use Intel chips. A few use the UltraSparc.

AMD's Athlon 64, which is Opteron's sister chip, is found in high-end notebooks geared toward consumers.

Tadpole's Opteron machine is likely to fill in product gaps between the company's Talin portable, which is based on Intel Pentium 4 processors and uses the Linux operating system, and its UltraSparc processor machines, such as the Sparcbook.

As part of its efforts to bring in more customers, Tadpole has been expanding its product line. Last May, it introduced a lower-priced UltraSparc processor portable workstation, called Sparcle. It continues to sell the Sparcbook, along with an intermediate-priced UltraSparc processor workstation known as Viper.

Although it will make public its Opteron workstation plans, specific details such as the new machine's price and processor configuration won't immediately be released. However, Tadpole is expected to install Sun's Java Desktop System software on the new machine.

The Opteron chip can run several different versions of Linux or Microsoft's Windows. Both operating systems are available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, although Microsoft is still working on a 64-bit version of Windows for the Opteron. Sun has been porting its 64-bit Solaris operating system to the Opteron as well.