Design flaw delays IBM workstation Sun Microsystems benefits from move


NEW YORK -- IBM said yesterday that its planned fall announcement of its under-$10,000 RISC workstation would be pushed back to early 1992 because of a design flaw.

The flaw limits the performance of a specialized chip that controls the movement of data between the computer's microprocessor and its peripherals, such as disk drives, International Business Machines Corp. said.

The delay will strengthen Sun Microsystem's hand in the highly competitive market, analysts said.

Sun Microsystems retains a commanding lead in the market for the machines, which are used by scientists and engineers. IBM and other computer vendors such as Hewlett Packard Co. and Digital Equipment Corp. have been scrambling to offer systems to compete where Sun is strongest -- less-expensive workstations.

"It's a minor negative from IBM's view, but its a real positive for Sun," said Rick Martin, a computer industry analyst at Prudential Bache. He said that the delay would probably cost Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM $100 million in revenue this year.

Although the short delay is not highly damaging, IBM will need a low-end offering soon, Mr. Martin said. "The low end is where the volume is, and over the long run you have to have a low-end machine to have it to fight off Sun," he said.

IBM is not the only maker of workstations hurt by technical snags. Hewlett Packard said earlier this year that shipments of its new RISC workstation, the 700 series, have been hurt by shortages of a Texas Instruments math chip.

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