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Sun ups high-end workstation line

As it continues to fight the PC powers on its home turf, the company unveils a new high-end workstation with improved graphics.

As it continues to fight the PC powers on its home turf, Sun Microsystems unveiled on Thursday a new high-end workstation with improved graphics.

The Sun Blade 2000 will occupy the top rung on the Sun workstation ladder. Starting at $10,995, the new machine is capable of running two 900MHz or 1GHz UltraSparc III processors and up to 8GB of memory. A special configuration commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sun sells for $34,995.

Specific configurations also come with a new graphics unit, the Sun XVR-1000, which greatly improves performance on data-visualization applications. These applications render large amounts of data into 3D images and perform other such functions. The new graphics unit is meant to attract geosciences companies and companies with stiff computer-aided design requirements.

Although it's often in the news because of its software strategies or its titanic battle with Microsoft over Java, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun is still primarily a hardware company. The lion's share of its revenue comes from sales of servers and workstations.

And in the past few years, the company has been engaged in a bitter fight against Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and other companies that have adopted technology from Microsoft and Intel in both of its main markets.

While analysts often rate Sun's RISC-Unix workstations highly, Wintel-based workstations are often much cheaper and have steadily improved in performance. As a result, PC workstations have begun to chip away at Sun's market share from the bottom up.

In the third quarter of 2001, Sun saw its market share decline from 23 percent to 18 percent in terms of units, according to research firm Gartner Group. Dell, meanwhile, saw its market share grow from 23.8 percent to 33.4 percent.

Along with the new workstation, Sun also issued a new 24-inch flat-panel monitor that sells for $4,500.