HEWLETT-PACKARD FUELS DRIVE TO LOW-END UNIX, INVADES SUN's COMMERCIAL GROUND

by CBR Staff Writer| 25 January 1994

Hewlett-Packard Co's new workstations and servers built around its latest PA-7100LC RISC processor (CI No 2,335) are clearly intended to invade some of the low-end commercial Unix ground occupied by the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc, but also at the high end of the Intel Corp desktop heartland. Although Hewlett-Packard's entry-level price of $4,000 was reached by Sun back in November 1992 with its SparcClassic, the 60MHz 9000 Series 700 Model 712/60 Gecko at 58 SPECint92 and 79 SPECfp92, 1.1m X11 vectors per second graphics, with 15 colour screen, two expansion slots, 16Mb RAM, 260Mb disk, Desktop HP-UX 9.03 and the Visual User Environment front-end offers better performance plus on-chip multimedia support. The servers, Models E25, E35 and E45 start at between $6,000 and $11,320 from May with two slots, 16Mb RAM, 535Mb disk and SCSI-2. They are positioned as personal computer server-level systems, are aimed at department and small businesses and come with HP-UX 9.04. With the 80MHz Model 712/80i workstation, an 84 SPECint92 box which is $8,820 for a 17 colour screen, two slots, 1.4m X11 vectors per second graphics, 16Mb RAM and 260Mb disk, the two workstations are part of Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Desktop Programme, which is designed to provide a range of price and configuration points for users looking to buy large numbers of the things. Although primarily known as a technical workstation vendor - and that community is still very much its core customer base - the new workstations are not seen as stand-alone machines.

Identified price

Backing its campaign, Hewlett-Packard says at least 100 large users it interviewed identified price, followed by performance and a full feature set as the most important buying criteria. Indeed, it claims to have several firms evaluating networks of up to 5,000 of the new systems, and expects financial trading, document and image management, customer service and application development firms to be its markets. Up on the boxes are version 2.0 of Hewlett-Packard's integrated MPower, 30 frames per second digital video, audio, graphics and imaging system; Teleshare, a telephone, facsimile and modem system (available only on the 712/80i); Hewlett-Packard's Wabi 1.1 implementation (when it arrives later this quarter) and Insignia Solutions Ltd SoftWindows - both Microsoft Corp Windows emulators - plus the Ready-to-Ware Desktop builder kit. Also unveiled during the week was the alpha version of NeXT Computer Inc's NeXTstep 3.2 object-oriented environment for HP 9000s which is due by mid-year. Although combinations of these software items are on limited offers - MPower 2.0 and RTW together are $100 in client versions, $1,000 on the servers - Mark Taylor, Hewlett-Packard marketing programme director for enterprise desktops admits a typically-configured system will require a couple of thousand dollars spending above the cost of the basic system, bringing a more realistic $6,000 tag to the 712/60. But even a system stuffed full won't cost as much as $10,000, he says. Hewlett-Packard claims the two operating systems, HP-UX 9.03 and 9.04, offer binary compatibility with each other and with system software up on other Hewlett-Packard Unix lines. A harmonised HP-UX release 10.0 is now as far away as the autumn - the company says it won't make the transition a hurdle like Sun's tortuous move to Solaris, though it doesn't say what 10.0 will feature, except binary compatibility.

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