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Handbags at dawn – HP blasts back at Sun

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HP lost little time responding to Sun's jibes after the latter launched its new Serengheti servers yesterday.

"Sun has done a tremendous job - you have to tip your hat to them," HP's director of worldwide marketing Mark Hudson told us, before listing a number of reasons why he thinks its momentum might stall. Some of his points were echoed by analysts yesterday.

"It's dated - there are a number of features that have been standard in mid range systems for a while," said Hudson. "The only thing new for Sun is partitioning, and that's not available until the end of the year."

HP also claims that the cost for Sun users of migrating to the UltraSparc III systems is similar to changing to a new architecture - although it didn't provide figures to back up the claim.

You can see why IBM, HP and Compaq get riled. Sun's growth over the past two years has come in spite of, not thanks to, its performance benchmarks, where it trails the competition considerably. In fact ,we can't remember the last time Sun boasted about how whizzy it's systems were. With UltraSparc running 18 months late, he added, performance would look even ropier against his forthcoming 8700 and IBM's POWER4-based systems.

But like other rivals, HP is betting on a fashion change, as the dot.com bubble bursts, slowing the demand for Sun kit amongst service providers and web hosting companies.

Didn't McNealy's jibe - he has a cruel, but very funny slide sequence which illustrates HP as a printer ink company - rankle, we wondered? "That's a typical Scott slide," said Hudson. "A couple of years ago he thought printers were all we did."

Then Mark went and spoiled his pitch of cool common sense, by telling us how great IA-64 was going to be... But we'll spare you that today. ®

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