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A couple of years back, Sun Microsystems decided to start holding quarterly product launch events. It figured this system provided the best way to show what $500m - Sun's quarterly research and development spend - could do. The format typically has Sun dish out a flood of product news designed to overwhelm customers, analysts and media hacks.

While these "Networking Computing" galas usually do impress, Sun's event today showed what can go wrong with the quarterly launch formula when you don't have much to discuss. As pointed out earlier, Sun did not release any new hardware. It simply reworked the pricing of some software, did the grid computing dance and highlighted services packages. Where did the $500m go? Who knows?

Sun's CEO Scott McNealy and President Jonathan Schwartz spent close to two hours gushing over these endeavors. We dare say they forgot to mention the actual news.

The execs did not utter word one about a processor upgrade to the Sun Blade 1500 and 2500 workstations. The systems now ship with up to 1.6GHz UltraSPARC IIIi processors, which gives them about a 40 per cent boost over previous systems. In addition to this kit, Sun announced a $600 discount off its Opteron-based Q1100z and W2100z workstations, if customers will move from current Xeon-based systems. Word of these deals arrived via a Sun press release not from the Sun brass.

Sun also revealed in a press release that it signed a long-term deal with XM Satellite Radio. XM has agreed buy some of Sun's highest-end gear, including a StorEdge 9990 box and Sun Fire 25K server. It has promised to turn to Sun for all its Unix needs for years to come.

Finally, Sun officially put Solaris 10 up for free download. Sun had promised to deliver this code several weeks ago. ®

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