Tadpole Computer Inc. is making good on its promise to extend beyond its high-end Unix-based desktops with a line of less expensive mobile computers.
The Cupertino, Calif., company, whose primary customer base has been government agencies, is shipping the first of these products, a 64-bit Unix mobile workstation called the Sparcle.
The new notebook is binary-compatible with Sun Microsystems Inc.s SPARC chip technology and Solaris operating system. A high-end version offers a 650MHz SPARC IIi chip, 2GB of memory and an 80GB hard drive. It weighs in at 6.5 pounds, offers up to 3 hours of battery life and comes with StarOffice productivity applications installed, said Tadpole officials.
They said the Sparcle should not be viewed as just a notebook but more as a server with notebook capabilities that can run Java applications. In addition, a CPU-sharing technology lets users run tasks in a background mode via a wireless 802.11b Wi-Fi network.
The new laptop will be available in several models that range in price from about $3,000 to $6,000—about half that of Tadpoles earlier least expensive notebook, the SPARCbook 5000. The average price of a Tadpole product until now was $25,000 to $30,000, officials said.
"The opportunity here is to leverage the technical piece and get a product out there to the market, and a big step in that is the price," said Mark Johnston, president and CEO of Tadpole.
Though Tadpole traditionally works in the Unix space, officials said the company will keep an eye on how Intel Corp.s 64-bit Itanium chip and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron processor develop and will consider them in the future.
The Sparcles support for 64-bit processing is a first for a mobile workstation, said Kate Sullivan, an analyst with International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass. Others, including Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, offer only 32-bit systems. As a result, Tadpole will find its customers among companies such as oil and gas firms that run 64-bit Unix workstations and havent yet ported their work onto Linux or Windows, Sullivan said.
Tadpole "will be trying for different customers," Sullivan said. "Sixty-four-bit is a very special requirement."