A jocular if prickly Sun Microsystems Inc president Scott McNealy presided over the introduction of the Sparcstation 2 in San Francisco last week, fielding unwelcome questions from securities analysts about the company’s recent poor financial performance. They questioned the impact the new launch had had on Sun’s bottom line, suggesting that some users had put […]
A jocular if prickly Sun Microsystems Inc president Scott McNealy presided over the introduction of the Sparcstation 2 in San Francisco last week, fielding unwelcome questions from securities analysts about the company’s recent poor financial performance. They questioned the impact the new launch had had on Sun’s bottom line, suggesting that some users had put off purchases until the new line was introduced. McNealy offered a curt retort, insisting that this is not a financial analysts’ meeting – its a product introduction. Among its many boasts last week, Sun predicted that the Sparc market – including both its own offerings and those from the host of compatible systems builders it has marshalled – would cross the crucial one million mark during 1992. One million, says Sun, is the magical point at which a computer architecture becomes not just another point at which a computer architecture becomes an industry standard, a la the IBM Personal Computer. At that point, runs the argument, the push and pull of market forces begin to feed on one another. Independent software vendors jump all over themselves to convert their software for a machine architecture with a one million installed base, the availability of that software draws more users in, which in turn draws more software vendors in, and so on. Sun also claims that passing the one million mark will finally lay to rest all the silly notions that the Sparc is not the one and only industry-standard RISC architecture out there. In the meantime, Sun says that it has now shipped 120,000 Sparcstations since the original introduction 18 months ago. It also predicted that it will have shipped a total of 250,000 by the end of its financial year in June 1991, up to 500,000 by the end of calendar 1991. It has a current run rate of 38,000 per month and rising. To drive home the point on its graphics performance, which should get Sun a ticket to new high-end two and three-dimensional application areas such as mechanical computer-aided design, animation, scientific visualisation and others, the company said that its top-end 2GT model can process 500,000 three-dimensional vectors per second, 100,000 Gouraud-shaded Z-buffered polygons per second, and 300,000 anti-aliased three-dimensional vectors per second. It has a resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels. Sun gained something of a coup at the launch with the announcement that Wavefront Technologies Inc, the leader in the animation marketplace, would be converting its software for the new system, the first time it has made it available on Sun kit. Sun co-founder and vice-president Bill Joy, much to the chagrin of corporate marketing vice-president Ed Zander, called the products warm-ups: the next generation, he said, due out in mid-1991 or so, will double the performance at current clock speeds through the use of superscalar architecture. Shows are notorious hotbeds of wild rumour, and contrary to the ones that were circulating at Unix Expo that Sun was about to make layoffs – something it’s never done – the company is saying that it is planning to grow another 20% to 30% over the next year.