SANTA CLARA, CALIF. -- Sun Microsystems Inc. has introduced what it says is the first desk-top supercomputer priced at less than $19,000.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based computer maker also announced three new software and hardware products, cut prices on some existing items and raised them on others.
Sun's new work station, the Sun 4-110 or "SPARCstation," will incorporate a new version of the Unix operating system, originally developed by American Telephone & Telegraph Corp. and being revised by AT&T and Sun.
The work station is also based on a Sun-developed microchip known as the SPARC that makes use of a new streamlined technology.
Sun hopes the work station -- whose speed, power and memory capabilities were said by Sun to significantly outperform its competitors -- will give it a broader share of the $3 billion market for computer work stations.
To date, six-year-old Sun's biggest fans have been designers and engineers who use its sophisticated work stations to dream up a variety of products from planes to software.
Sun hopes the SPARCstation, a mid-range work station, will become popular among people who perform complex tasks in other industries, such as finance, research and building construction.
Sun said the work station's $18,900 base price would put it within the means of businesses with modest budgets but sophisticated needs.
The model is priced above a $4,995 personal computing system introduced by Sun last year but well below other Sun systems costing $30,000 or more.
The SPARCstation can be delivered within 30 days of ordering, Sun said.
Sun executives also renewed their call for industry support of plans by AT&T and Sun to develop a revised version of the Unix operating system.
The alliance, including a recent agreement by AT&T to acquire up to 20 percent of Sun, has prompted protest from more than a dozen computer companies, including Digital Equipment Corp. of Maynard, Mass., and Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif.
Those companies fear Sun's efforts to promote its SPARC chip as an industry standard may lock them out of the technological advances a revised Unix system may bring.
Also last week, Sun introduced a new high-capacity disk drive; a software program enabling users to run programs using artificial intelligence; an improved version of a network file system that helps computers swap information.
The company also announced several price changes, notably a $1,000 increase in the price of its Sun 3-60 to $8,900 and a decrease of $2,100 to $4,800 on its 141-megabyte SCSI disk drive, except when purchased as part of a package.