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DREAMWORKS INKS FRACTIOUS TECH TRIO

Much ballyhoo accompanied recent announcements by DreamWorks regarding the new studio’s alliances with technology companies including Microsoft, Silicon Graphics Inc. and IBM.

Outside the dreamy confines of Hollywood, however, those tech giants are at each other’s throats.

Microsoft has moved aggressively to counter SGI’s dominant position in the hot computer graphics field by acquiring Softimage, a key animation software company that got the digital dinosaurs moving in “Jurassic Park.”

SGI responded by snapping up two animation software companies, Alias and Wavefront, whose products are also tops among keyboard artisans.

Meanwhile, both SGI and Microsoft are head-to-head with IBM in several crucial areas. One example is Big Blue’s attempt to lock Microsoft out of the group-network software market with its hostile takeover bid for Lotus Corp.

Speedy SGI

And when it comes to the powerful computer servers at the heart of those networked systems, an SGI spokesman says, “Our servers are the best and fastest in the world.”

But in cool contrast to SGI and Microsoft’s overheated alliance announcements with DreamWorks, IBM execs quietly called reporters to a downtown L.A. hotel suite last week to announce that its SP2 computer server and Digital Library program was being installed at the troika’s facility to handle the assets management system.

Why did SGI let a competitor in the door?

As it turns out, DreamWorks specifically requested that IBM’s Digital Library be a component of the overall “Digital Studio” being designed by SGI.

“I think SGI ought to be commended,” said SGI VP Eric Carlson with professional courtesy, “for taking an open architecture approach that works with our competitors.”

While all parties are commendably talking “open architecture,” it remains to be seen if they will co-exist peacefully in DreamWorks’ Digital Studio (a term they may have to abandon, since it is copyrighted by Softimage) or turn it into a high-tech version of the Balkans.

One thing is for certain: The tie-in with Hollywood gets the techies very excited; a screening last week of Paramount’s “Congo” for 600 SGI employees was interrupted by cheers each time a Silicon Graphics logo appeared on computer equipment in the movie. And at SGI’s June1 press conference with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a frantic hard-sell presentation by one SGI exec moved Spielberg to comment that he was a hard act to follow.

“I thought I was auditioning,” quipped the SGI exec.

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