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Sun Vs. Sgi: It's Trench Warfare In Silicon Valley

Here's the latest from the front in the workstation wars: Sun Microsystems Inc. and Silicon Graphics Inc. are once again mounting raids into each other's turf. On July 5, Sun was scheduled to introduce the $20,000 Sparcstation ZX, a system capable of manipulating 3-D images up to 10 times faster than previous Sun models. The company claims a new custom-designed graphics chip makes the ZX run three times faster than a similarly priced model from SGI, which prides itself on being tops in graphics computing.

SGI hopes to blunt Sun's announcement with a new, lower-cost version of its own high-end graphics technology. More important, it plans on July 12 to launch a new low-end workstation, which at $5,000 is its least expensive--and not much more than Sun's lowest-priced model. SGI's machine has been designed specifically with video images in mind; it even has a tiny camera built in to capture video images. Although SGI's workstations are used mostly for expensive technical tasks, such as oil exploration, the new model has been designed for the same high-volume, cost-sensitive markets in which Sun has excelled, such as computer-aided design.

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