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Belluzzo's Nvidia pact 'sealed SGI's fate'

Historical - but tasty

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Letters Shortly before SGI chief Rick Belluzzo joined Microsoft, he made three fateful decisions that appear to have sealed the great company's fate. We discussed these here this week.

Now a former staffer who lived through the brief Belluzzo era has this to add to the intrigue. It's news to us, and the implications are ... well, read on. "Around the same time as the NVidia deal was sealed," he writes, "SGI canned the internal high end graphics team, decimating the group - and it was more like 1 in 10 survived, if that. But SGI also told the low end graphics team that NVidia would be paying their salaries while they finished their death march, and afterwards they would be NVIDIA employees

"That was part of the NVIDIA settlement - along with the cross licensing of IP. It effectively meant that SGI was exiting any meaningful graphics hardware development, for the first time."

We'd be particularly interested to hear from SGI staff in the legal and financial departments at the time.

By the way, he adds, SGI's Visual Workstation - its first, proprietary PCs - was sunk by product delays to the custom design. "The one Rick killed was a dog before he'd actually sold it," he adds.

But Belluzzo weaved some interesting patterns in his earlier job at Hewlett Packard. One very senior source writes:

"You might add to Mr. Beluzzo's impressive credentials the following. Beluzzo was the HP exec that was the primary sponsor of two strategic moves on their part:

"Firstly, stop investing in HP-UX because the world was going to be 100% Windows.

"Secondly, give away the V3 PA-RISC instruction set to Intel, creating Itanium, because nobody could compete with Intel. Cache-coherent NUMA systems with Itanium and Windows would drive everything else out of the market with a single hardware and software architecture from the desktop to the biggest machines on the planet.

"The initial HP servers capable of running Itanium started to be designed in 1995 (dual mode, PA-RISC or Itanium, and were end-of-lifed before Itanium ever shipped). Eleven years on, PA-RISC still sells at the same rate as Itanium despite zero investment in it, IBM's POWER runnning AIX rules the performance roost, and Microsoft has ditched support for Itanium.

"Indeed, Mr. Beluzzo doesn't seem to quite have the Midas touch ..."

And we thought all he did was run the printer division. Any HP'ers out there want to get in touch? ®

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