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IBM speeds up workstations

Big Blue gives its professional workstations a boost with a 300-MHz version of its IntelliStation M Pro line.

    IBM gave its professional workstations a boost today, announcing a 300-MHz version of its IntelliStation M Pro line and giving users of traditional Unix workstations another reason to consider Intel-based computers running Windows NT.

    The IntelliStation M Pro uses Intel's Pentium II processor and was previously available in speeds up to 266 MHz. Window NT systems compete with Unix-based workstations for buyers in high-end applications such as computer animation, mechanical design, and physical modeling.

    The 300-MHz machine should run about 10 percent faster than its 266-MHz predecessor, according to Tom Copeland, an analyst at IDC Research. Overall, the machine's performance will equal systems in the midrange Unix market.

    "Both in terms of processor and graphics performance, the Unix systems still have an edge," Copeland noted. For many users, however, the Pentium II systems' performance may be "very acceptable," he added, since prices run sometimes as much as half that of Unix counterparts.

    But the choice between Pentium II workstations running Windows NT and traditional Unix machines depends on the support infrastructure already in place at each company. Bringing Windows NT systems to a Unix-centric office incurs additional cost for support and maintenance, and these hidden costs may outweigh the hardware savings, according to Copeland.

    Although Windows NT systems are becoming an increasing part of the workstation market, it will be a while before they threaten the dominance of Unix at the very high end.

    "RISC processors from Unix vendors over the next two years will be ahead of anything Intel" brings to market, Copeland said. "The real question is where the line will be drawn between the high-end and low-end pricing structures."

    The Intellistation M Pro 300 MHz will be available July 31 for $9,775. The price include Windows NT and a Intergraph Intense3D graphics system with 20MB of memory.