Silicon Graphics revamps

Computer co. to include Intel inside

Silicon Graphics Inc., the computer workstation maker whose powerful graphics capabilities have earned it a berth in entertainment industry animation and f/x shops, announced Tuesday a set of corporate initiatives — including tighter ties with chip giant Intel Corp. — designed to pull the struggling company back into the black.

Chief among the messages for Hollywood in the SGI corporate makeover was a restated commitment to continue the com-pany’s proprietary Unix-based Irix operating system, despite its plans to roll out machines based on Microsoft’s NT operating system and Intel microprocessors.

New environment

“We want to make clear to the entertainment community that we have a long-term commitment to offering a dual-processor environment,” said Todd Johnson, vice president of marketing for SGI.

The company also detailed its plans to migrate its computer workstation hardware and software entirely to the Intel standard, and start phasing out its own MIPS-chip architecture. The first wave of NT computers from SGI will use Intel’s current Pentium II microprocessors, followed by machines using Intel’s next-generation, 64-bit Merced chips.

SGI’s entry-level NT systems, due out this fall, are expected to cost around $4,000, but will range upward, depending on the configuration.

Computer business observers pointed out that it will be at least a year before the SGI strategy can be judged. “They need to release not only the new NT machines, but to have a couple of quarters of customer support and acceptance,” said Richard Shaffer, editor of industry newsletter Computer Letter. “Success depends on the degree to which people on the creative side can continue to feel comfortable with SGI software and not worry about what operating system is under the hood.”