Workstations aren't PCs, SGI warns Compaq

As Compaq made its official announcement of the new Workstation Division today, Silicon Graphics UK desktop product manager Martin Baines commented on the PC giant's chances in an interview with PC Daily News.What do you think of Compaq's move into the workstation market?

As Compaq made its official announcement of the new Workstation Division today, Silicon Graphics UK desktop product manager Martin Baines commented on the PC giant's chances in an interview with PC Daily News.

What do you think of Compaq's move into the workstation market?

All they're really doing is reorganising and refocussing on what they are doing already. There has already been a move of high-end PCs impinging on low-end RISC workstations. They'll find that it's not just a case of having hot tin. There will have to be a recognition that you have to change the way you sell and change your channels. A lot depends on how they get their sales channels sorted out. The market is typically looking for integration and you need a channel that understands that.

What else will Compaq have to change, in terms of the differences between selling PCs and selling workstations?

The internal processes have to be right. PC support is hotlines, and if a system breaks you send out another one, but with workstations the problems are more complex.

What about the fact that they'll run Pentium Pro/Windows NT rather than the RISC/Unix flavour combination of 'classic' workstation vendors?

Relying on another company for your operating system (OS) could lead to long lead times. Problems may not get fixed until the next OS release. It's not the 80 per cent of problems, it's the other 20 per cent where you need access to your own source code. That's something that's going to arise for those gnarly problems.

What sort of threat does Compaq represent to SGI and other companies in the workstation arena?

Any company, ourselves included, would be pretty naive not to consider a company the size of Compaq as a threat. They are a valid organisation to come into the workstation space. We're probably less at risk than some; we have a much bigger smear towards advanced graphics users. Strategically, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and IBM stand to lose the most. They're most exposed at the low-end where there is overlap with PC capability.

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