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Silicon Graphics bows new Octane workstations

Silicon Graphics, maker of high-performance workstations used to create effects on films such as “Toy Story,” “Forrest Gump” and “Jurassic Park,” plans to announce today a line of mid-level workstations dubbed Octane.

Industry insiders predict the line will supplant the market dominance enjoyed by SGI’s current mid-level product, the Indigo 2 workstation.

“The Indigo 2 is the bread and butter of their product line,” said a source. The Octane, he predicted, will be SGI’s “base product for the next two to four years.”

Quicker work

The new system will allow users to work more quickly, said Dan Vivoli, SGI’s VP of marketing for the desktop systems division. Vivoli acknowledged that this capability probably won’t shorten the production time on a feature. But, he said, filmmakers will be able to create a greater number of effects scenes for a film than they could using other workstation systems.

The announcement comes at a time when SGI’s stock price is on the rebound from a serious slump last year. Despite threats in the digital effects market from Windows and Intel, which are aggressively wooing Hollywood, industry observers believe SGI products will continue selling well for the foreseeable future.

Representatives from Softimage, a Microsoft-owned graphics software company, will be on hand at today’s SGI announcement at Silicon Graphics’ Mountain View headquarters.

Changing attitudes

Industry insiders speculate that Microsoft and SGI may have been keeping their distance over the past 18 months or so, but that each company has changed its stance lately. In addition to the question of which platform effects artists will use, SGI and Microsoft are competitors in the area of effects software. Although SGI is an open platform – meaning software from various manufacturers can run on its machines – the company operates its own software division, Alias/Wavefront.

With regard to SGI, said Softimage director of special projects David Morin, “I wouldn’t say our strategy has changed. When we became part of Microsoft, and when SGI bought Alias/Wavefront, there was a strain in the relationship, but that doesn’t change the bottom line commitment: We both provide tools for artists. The dust has settled, and it’s very important for us to recognize SGI as a partner.”

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