California-based SGI hopes to strengthen its market position by releasing a line of new products related to visual area networking. The products, including a visual workstation, graphics infrastructure software and desktop systems, target high-end users. Bob Bishop, chairman and chief executive of SGI, said: 'Every three years or so, SGI fundamentally changes the world of computer graphics. 'Now at our 20th anniversary, the time has come again.' The company, also known as Silicon Graphics, was set up in 1982 and is a provider of high-performance computing, data management and visualisation products. It is also famous in the performance market for the hardware used to create computer animations and special effects for films such as Cats & Dogs and The Lord of the Rings. Its market has recently been challenged by industry giants such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, especially in the workstation and server arenas. SGI has launched workstation-level server Fuel, which was designed for personal users. It runs on an Irix operating system with the latest MIPS R14000A processor. It carries a 48-bit RGBA for enhanced imaging and leverages the company's 3000 family of Onyx and Origin systems with a high bandwidth design. SGI said its price at US$11,495 was 57 per cent less than similarly configured workstations and 35 per cent less than the previous entry price for an SGI 64-bit workstation. Jan Silverman, SGI's senior vice-president for marketing, said: 'It is the best power for the price.' The company also launched a new software application, OpenGL Vizserver 2.0, which allows users to interact remotely with visualisation supercomputers individually or as a collaborative community of users. SGI has also released the Onyx 300 visualisation system with InfiniteReality3 graphics subsystem, as well as the Onyx 3000 visualisation system series with InfinitePerformance graphics. The Onyx 300 is for users in the defence, energy, science and manufacturing industries which require a high level of realism and interaction. The Onyx 3000 can deliver up to 283 million triangles per second of sustained performance and 7.7 million pixels per second, claimed to be the world's fastest interactive graphics performance. According to the company, visual area networking enables universal access to advanced visualisation using any computing device and a standard network. Rendered data can be visualised locally by sending only the pixels of the visualised graphic, rather than the raw data. It also enhances security by not allowing data duplication when information needs to be distributed on the network. Mr Bishop said: 'The power of SGI visualisation supercomputers is literally put into the hands of people like surgeons performing virtual surgery on the battlefield or geologists analysing strata in the Gulf of Mexico.' Mr Silverman said it was SGI's multi-year, multi-product strategy to enable universal access to visualisation networks. 'In the future, users can deliver visualisation commands to desktops from their personal digital assistants or mobile phones,' he said. Analysts believed that the concept of visualisation area networking would soon gain in popularity. Debra Goldfarb, group vice-president of enterprise systems at International Data Corp, said: 'Visual area networking will drive new applications and workloads around collaborative research in [many] areas.'