Dell ventures into personal workstation sector

Dell Computer Corp. is targeting the General Services Administration schedule with personal workstations designed for computer-aided design (CAD) and software engineering applications.

Dell last week debuted the WorkStation 400 a product that ships with one or two Intel Corp. Pentium II processors and one of three video adapters targeting specific applications. The product is available immediately on the GSA schedule according to a company spokesman.

Kevin Rollins senior vice president and general manager of Dell Americas said Dell aims to become the dominant provider of personal workstations products that are built around Intel chip technology and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT. International Data Corp. predicts that shipments of Intel/Microsoft workstation products will grow at a compound annual rate of 41 percent through 2000. The market researcher is projecting 3 percent annual growth for workstations based on reduced instruction-set computing (RISC) chips and the Unix operating system.

Rollins said the market is "transforming" from RISC/Unix to Intel/Microsoft. "We see that as an opportunity that fits nicely with our [direct sales build-to-order] model " he said.

In entering the personal workstation market Dell is vying with earlier entrants such as Compaq Computer Corp. and Intergraph Corp. But Payton Smith a research analyst with IDC Government said there is no dominant player in the "NT workstation niche." Dell he said will benefit from its "big name and strong sales approach."

Targeting CAD

Rollins said Dell is targeting the CAD/graphics and software engineering segments with the WorkStation 400. In CAD for example the company has alliances with Autodesk Inc. Bentley Systems Inc. and Intergraph Corp.'s software unit among other vendors said Linda Hargrove vice president of workstations for Dell.

Hargrove noted that unlike most PC customers workstation buyers tend to select software applications first and then choose the hardware platform. For that reason she said Dell is working with independent software vendors to ensure that specialized applications will be available for the WorkStation 400.

A WorkStation 400 with a single 266 MHz Pentium II chip with 64M of RAM a Matrox Millennium video adapter a 2G hard drive a 17-inch monitor an 8x CD-ROM drive Windows NT one year of Windows NT support and three years of on-site service has a GSA price of $3 934. A model with dual 300 MHz Pentium II processors 128M of RAM a Matrox video card a 9G hard drive a 17-inch monitor Windows NT one year of Windows NT support and three years of on-site service sells for $6 806.

In addition to the Matrox graphics adapter two higher-end cards are available for the WorkStation 400: an ELSA Gloria L/MX for advanced 3-D design and an Appian Jeronimo J2 for entry-level CAD. To back its new workstation Dell is providing an in-house 24-hour seven-day-a-week technical support staff to field product questions company officials said.

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