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SGI pledges ‘major commitment’ to Linux

We'll more closely support the open source OS than any other vendor, claims company

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SGI claimed yesterday it was making "a major commitment" to Linux -- the biggest from any major computer vendor -- following its announcement of its latest major restructure. That commitment, said company execs speaking at a press conference this evening, is to move all of its software technologies over to the open source OS and into the open source community, as SGI itself shifts away from IRIX and toward Linux. Beau Vrolyk, senior VP of SGI's computer systems business unit, said: "Linux has 12 million users worldwide and is being installed at a rate of one million new installs per month -- faster than all the other Unix-like OSes put together. Linux is better for our customers than any proprietary operating system, so we'll be merging technology out of IRIX and into Linux." While he didn't admit that meant IRIX would ultimately die off, that's effectively what this strategy means, in as much as Linux will eventually offer the same features as IRIX, so there won't be any real reason to support SGI's currently proprietary Unix derivative. NT won't be eased out, said Vrolyk. "NT remains a successful OS from the most powerful software developer in the world. Customers have already chosen between NT and Unix depending on what applications they want to run." Those who choose Unix, will then make a decision whether to adopt IRIX or Linux, he added. SGI also said within nine months it would unveil a new hardware architecture which will offer both MIPS and Intel CPUs, and IRIX and Linux operating systems. "It will give is a 2x speed advantage and a 3x cost reduction," said Vrolyk. MIPS machines will continue to be offered until 2002 -- the current limit of the chip developer's roadmap. "There's no back off from our MIPS/IRIX support," said CEO Rick Belluzzo. SGI's focus on emerging broadband Internet applications, as hinted at in the initial restructure announcement, centres on the emerging scope consumers have for high bandwidth Net connections through DSL and cable modems, said Vrolyk. However, he admitted that the company was coming at the issue from the server end, rather than the client. Vrolyk confirmed that SGI's donation of its graphics technologies to nVidia was essentially about passing the graphics R&D burden over the 3D specialist, which, he said, would be developing products based on SGI technology not only for the mainstream PC market but would be creating systems "only for us". "nVidia will be concentrating on the low-end modules within the graphics pipeline," he said. "SGI will be focusing on the large scale architectures that contain those low-end modules." This is not a weakening of SGI's technology, he stressed, since every SGI machine will still be based exclusively on SGI intellectual property. ®

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