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Sun releases low-cost Unix workstation

The company debuts a new, budget-minded Unix workstation. But as its influence grows in the Unix market, the market itself is dwindling.

Sun Microsystems released a new, budget-minded Unix workstation on Tuesday. But as its influence grows in the Unix market, the market itself is dwindling.

The Sun Blade 150 workstation, starting at $1,395, is the latest in a series of inexpensive RISC/Unix workstations designed to compete against workstations based around Intel chips running Windows or Linux.

The new machine comes with an UltraSparc IIi processor running at 550MHz or 650MHz, up to two 40GB hard drives, and up to 2GB of memory. Improvements to the processor and the graphics unit boost performance by up to 76 percent, according to Sun.

In recent quarters, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based manufacturer managed to increase its historically sizeable lead over its nearest rival, Hewlett-Packard, in the Unix-RISC workstation market. Sun now accounts for 69 percent of the worldwide shipments of Unix workstations, according to IDC.

But while Sun's cheap workstations have proven popular, they haven't held back the tide. The Unix workstation market is now dwarfed by the Intel-Windows-Linux market, a conversion driven by lower prices and greater availability of software. Nearly four times as many Intel workstations were shipped worldwide in the first quarter, according to a report from IDC, and the gap continues to grow.

Still, not all of the Intel workstations sell well. IDC estimated that fewer than 1,000 Itanium workstations were shipped in the first quarter.

Overall, Dell Computer leads the total workstation market.