Tadpole is drastically cutting prices in a bid to make its 64-bit Unix notebooks more affordable to corporate software developers.
The company has been selling Unix notebooks to the military and independent software vendors at high prices, but now also wants to make deeper inroads into the corporate market. But a declining market for 64-bit Unix workstations and the increased performance of 32-bit notebooks could cause those corporate users to look elsewhere, analysts said.
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Tadpole is focusing on developing mobile Unix workstations that allow software developers to take their home development environments on the road or salespeople to demonstrate Unix software programs to potential customers. The company's larger "luggable" notebooks, currently used by customers like the CIA and FBI, at prices of $18,000 to $20,000 will become smaller and cheaper due to advances in cooling and manufacturing technology, said Mark Johnston, chief executive officer of Tadpole.
Corporations are looking for performance, security and reliability in mobile workstations, and 64-bit operating systems such as Sun Microsystems Solaris and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX offer the better security features than 32-bit operating systems such as Windows or Linux, Johnston said.
Over the next few months, Tadpole will introduce notebooks with Solaris and Sun's Sparc processors that are similar in size to conventional desktop replacements and thin-and-light notebooks for about $4,000 to $6,000, Johnston said. The first conventional sized notebook, weighing about 7lbs, will be released in early April.
Tadpole is committed to 64-bit Unix, despite the emergence of other 64-bit technologies such as Intel's Itanium processor, AMD's Opteron and Athlon64 processors, and versions of both Microsoft Windows and Linux for those chips, Johnston said. The cooling issues presented by Itanium wouldn't allow Tadpole to consider that chip for one of its notebooks at this time, he said.
Despite Tadpole's commitment, most users of 64-bit Unix workstations based on RISC processors are leaving in droves for cheaper workstations running Intel processors with Windows or Linux, said Pia Rieppo, principal analyst with research group Dataquest.
The overall RISC workstation market was half as large in 2002 as it was in 2000, based on worldwide shipments, Rieppo said. "The only reasons why people are staying with RISC are they have legacy applications that are too expensive or difficult to migrate, or if for some reason they need 64-bit capability."
And with the new 64-bit processors from Intel and AMD expected to gain traction over the next couple of years, it will be hard to build a market around mobile RISC workstations, Rieppo said. "Within five years, they'll be lucky if there will be any RISC workstations at all."
Tadpole will look at independent software vendors and research organisations as early potential customers for its notebooks, Johnston said.
Taiwan-based Naturetech also sells several mobile Unix PCs that run Solaris. The company's 777S series notebooks weigh between 5lbs and 7.6lbs, depending on which optical drive is included, and sell for about $6,000 to $9,000, according to Gartner's Taiwan office.
After rolling out notebooks of various sizes, Tadpole will unveil a technology that allows users to connect their notebooks to their Unix datacenters using a new I/O technology, Johnston said. He declined to provide further details.