Yes, SGI Still Exists, But Maybe Not For Long

from the try,-try-again dept

How quickly things change. It wasn't that long ago that SGI was considered one of the hottest firms in the Valley. Getting a job at SGI was considered something similar to getting a job at Google today. And then... SGI seemed to fall off a cliff. In a matter of just a few years, as the internet became popular, SGI's strategy seemed to be focused in absolutely the wrong direction -- on "big" computing projects. The company spent a lot of time in the mid- to late-90's trying to become known as the computing choice for big Hollywood movie effects -- just as the real revolution was happening at the low end. Over the last seven or eight years, the company has continually announced new strategies and new plans, but they've been accompanied by increasing layoffs and decreasing relevance. Last year, when SGI was delisted, we noted how many had pretty much forgotten its existence, and that's obviously still true today as the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Like most Chapter 11 filers, the company claims it's going to try to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy... but the company has a much longer path to become relevant again.


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  •  
    identicon
    dorpus, May 8th, 2006 @ 11:04am

    The TWA of the Valley

    How many times did TWA go bankrupt? 20? 50? It was an annual ritual during the 1980s and 90s.

     

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    chris (profile), May 8th, 2006 @ 12:01pm

    wow, they made such cool looking computers

    it's sad really. they made the neatest looking workstations.

    i remember when a company i worked for dropped $1.5 mil on 25 brand new octane workstations in 1999 because the sales rep got us in the IT department tickets for the opening of star wars episode1 when people were camping out for weeks to get tickets.

    they were up against sun and ibm and swayed the deal with $100 worth of movie tickets.

    you should never put a bunch of geeks in charge of that much money.

     

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    Michael Murdock, May 8th, 2006 @ 12:07pm

    They lost direction and focus

    and it's sad as they had a face for Unix which while not as sexy as OSX for Macintosh, they were mainstream and they had things they should have capitalized on quickly.

    I could turn that place around if given a chance. Who knows, maybe someone over there will read this and give me a call and set up a meeting. Stranger things have happened.

    I have room in my schedule for them as I love SGI computers, their potential, and where they were going. It's time for a resurrection in Silicon Graphics and I am just the man to do it.

    Michael Murdock, CEO
    DocMurdock.com
    (former Apple CEO Candidate 1997)

     

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      Slip Random, May 8th, 2006 @ 12:24pm

      Re: They lost direction and focus

      Yeah, they'll call you. --SR

       

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      Grammer Checker, May 8th, 2006 @ 4:55pm

      Re: They lost direction and focus

      Maybe I took offense in some subconscious manner to your posting Doc. My apologies up front to you and yours as you have a really bold comment that you can turn a major company around from bankruptcy, while only being on some sort of un-published list to be Apple's CEO at one time (does Mr. Jobs know you?). Not actually being a CEO of any other company now or in the past, I wondered who this guy is?? SGI's machines were ahead of their time hence their recent problems.

      You have been in computing as long as Jobs and Wozniak were when they created Apple 1 for a selling price of $666... some 30 years ago. I do not think they know you though.

      You have been in computing when Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first computing language... some 30 years ago, which is a form of BASIC designed for the Altair. Gates later drops out of Harvard and founds Microsoft with Allen. They do not mention working with you on that.

      Being you're an expert with experience beginning in 1975, I did not see your name on any of the founders pages so apparently you're suggesting/hinting that you developed some sort of computing hardware or software and were overlooked by history? Maybe you consulted with Al Gore when you two invented the internet. Maybe you consulted with the government and universities to do a global name change from Arpanet, to Internet, to help out with their marketing efforts. [big cheesy grin]

      I did some checking on docmurdock.com and I'd like to point out some things you might want to take care of before you fix SGI. Apparently in your expertise of helping folks build up and design web companies, you have not heard of grammar check or spell check which are included with almost any modern day HTML processing program even on a MAC. I hope you do some sort of check before modifying their livelihoods and websites with keywords, ad-words, or any other words for that matter as their wealth depends on your accuracy especially when dealing with search engine results which is your chosen profession. See below:

      http://docmurdock.blogspot.com/

      I sat down and thought would [who instead of would possibly?] would [would 2nd time] I like to work with at this place called IBI and put them into one place where people can find them and I wanted to ensure that the right people made it in that come from a place of integrity and are interested in your success in business.

      Run on sentence too I'm afraid.

      http://docmurdock.com/

      In the upper right hand side of your Z pattern, you're missing the email address contact. Green Font on gray background is not easy to read either.

      http://docmurdock.com/articles.htm

      KEYWORDS -
      Select about 22 words/phrases that desc[r]ibe your product or service, and separate them with a comma. This line would look like: auto, automobile, service, terrific, new, free car wash, pay with cash.

      http://docmurdock.com/about.htm

      We're adept at positi[i]oning your company on the web in front of your ideal marketplace so that they have the opportunity to use your products or services.

      Our vision for the future of our company and that of the world of tech[n]ology is one that's under wraps for the moment.

      http://docmurdock.com/resources.htm

      Click here to learn more about
      human resou[r]ce software.

      http://docmurdock.com/spotlight.htm

      But when you're talking about someone's business or lively[i not y]hood and making money on the Internet it's difficult to not get passionate at times about it.

       

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        Michael Murdock, May 10th, 2006 @ 10:36pm

        Re: Re: They lost direction and focus

        In answer to the one poster who asked if Steve Jobs knows me, answer: Yes. I used to work for him at PIXAR, and when you run the credits in Toy Story, you find me there. From time to time I send Steve emails when I see a problem with something Apple is doing. From time to time he has someone contact me. So yes, he knows exactly who I am. I last saw him at Pixar when I was invited for the memorial for my good friend Joe Ranft.

        As for your diagnosis of my blog and my business...you're right. My website is designed in the exact opposite of what I posted in my blog. Correct. However, if you were knowledgable about the web, search engine algorithms, and the fact that they change from time to time. It's called "adapting" to change.

        I was challenged by someone who worked directly for Steve Jobs, to run against him. Was labeled in the press as one of the top 8 people in the world to be the next CEO of Apple, and my credentials were accepted into the candidates pool at the executive search firm conducting the search for the CEO. (there were only 8 candidates for the position including Steve. I was one of them, and I have the letter in my box of souvenirs from that time.

        I did not want that job, but to run under false pretenses would not have forced Steve's hand.

        I left a $110,000 a year position at PIXAR to do what I did. I subsequently lost more than $500,000.00 in consulting gigs when I was accused of an email prank that someone perpetrated by sending a list of salaries to all of PIXAR.

        Could I turn around SGI? You bet. Will they offer? Heck no.

        Fear is a great emotion, and it runs high in corporate America. It also runs high on boards where people with less guts then me, chastise me because that's all they know how to do. It's cool, that's your choice.

        The truth is SGI has a lot of history and a lot of potential, and I can put together a team of people who could turn that operation around in 1 year or less. It's not just a statement. It's a fact, and you have no idea or possible way to comprehend the number of connections that I have in the industry, or the press and no knowledge of what I can do. I don't put it all on my website or blog.

        I find your posting highly amusing. But the other side of this is, no matter how much of an english major you are, (or claim to be) they're more likely to call me because I step up to the plate and swing, vs. sit on the sidelines and jerk off.

        Michael Murdock

         

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    Topher3105, May 8th, 2006 @ 12:20pm

    End of an era

    I agree, SGI definitely couldn't carve out a niche for themselves in the 21st century. Whether it was high end NT workstations, or now high end Linux workstations, or high end linux servers, there just isnt' any motivation to buy SGI over a slew of other companies offering products that, while they may not match in quality, are simply more affordable and get the job done just as well. If your setting up a server bank, are you going to use Dell or SGI? Dell's sales figures are all the proof that people don't need highlyg customized an proprietary server solutions, just a bunch of off the shelf Intel components.

    SGI is one of the few computer companies that actually invested time and money developing custom PC solutions. Like Apple, I think if they could realize a potential to develop high end PC based workstations, combining well designed enclosures using off-the-shelf PC components (ala Macintels!) then SGI could potentially remain solvent by making high end gaming rigs as well as continue to cater to graphics, video and scientific workstations.

    The worst that could happen to SGI nos is that Dell or HP buys them out. It will water down their technology, but at least if some of SGI's innovation trickles into the average PC workstation or server, then it will not be a total loss.

    The best case senario, ideally, is for Apple to be looking to aquire SGI to get their talent pool integrated into Apple. Think of Apple developing a line of high end graphics/3D workstations that can be field tested by Pixar!!!!

     

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      media4d, May 8th, 2006 @ 2:19pm

      Re: End of an era

      Remember the Ardent Titan? Jon Rubenstein was one of the primary designers for that workstation. SGI ate their lunch, and then their dinner.

      Jon Rubenstein went on to create the G5 desktops and XServe servers at Apple. SGI files for Chapter 11... it's the normal course of events and the evolution of technology.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:00pm

    "workstations" heh.

    I remember when my "PC" outperformed my school's SGI "workstations" (in Alias/Wavefront)

    What a joke.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:52pm

      Re:

      Ya totally, ya know my new laptop is faster than a Cray1, man, and it didn't cost no $8M. Why do people buy this expensive shit?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:13pm

    I think that if any company should help SGI it should either be Nvidia, or ATI. They have the knowledge of producing great graphic products, that could very well boost SGI. As well as 3D labs, who's OpenGL cards are essential for 3D development.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:57pm

      Re:

      No one will buy SGI, they sold much of their important IP a long time ago. About the only thing they have that's worth anything is their NUMALink architecture. Most of the original engineers that made SGI what it was have also left. Want to know where they went? nVidia & ATI. There's some interesting connections in the graphics industry, but the simplified story is that all roads lead back to SGI.

       

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    anonymous coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:20pm

    SGI should merge with a buggy whip company in hopes of finding some "synergies" in finding new markets...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:45pm

    I agree with one of the previous posters. Either ATI or NVidia will likely snatch SGI's remaining assets. Both companies already have a fair number of former-SGIers anyway...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 1:56pm

    They owe me $. ARGH!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    Sad story, but it's been a long time comming. It's too bad that SGI can't seem to make money occupying some high-end niche. At one time they were the Ferraris of computers. Maybe they should ask Ferrari how they do so well at the high end of their industry ;). If you read up on the history of the graphics business it becomes very clear that SGI could have still have had the high end niche but could have also become nVidia.

     

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    Chris, May 8th, 2006 @ 2:15pm

    Innovation and the Power of change.

    SGI still has a tremendous amount of potential. They have had some of the best engineers in the world walk through their doors and innovate. Innovation by nature drives change. Unfortunately what one innovates does not always coincide with what is profitable, as has seemingly been the case for SGI. Poor business level decisions, resulted in mis-direction which ultimately resulted in lack of profitability. SGI has powerful name and with the right leadership and a good market strategy could still turn this thing around.

    SGI should leverage their broad understanding of graphic systems, data mining and supercomputing with lower level consumer based products. A potential alliance with ATI or NVIDIA would not necessarily heed poor results, but it might undermine their potential if it came in the shape of an acquisition. Perhaps simply an agreement do work through some joint venture would be a good building block. They should simultaneously attack the small-medium sized business sectors with a new line of powerful system designed to be more economically friendly. If they could come down in price point, many originations would simply pay for their hardware’s reputation. Combined with an alternate open source OS offering such as BSD or Linux, they might actually have a very tangible piece of hardware which would sell quite effectively. This should be construed as in addition to their existing market presence in the scientific and super computing sectors.

    I for one would like to see them turn things around.

    Chris

     

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    John, May 8th, 2006 @ 5:35pm

    See below for more on Mr. Murdock's supposed candidacy for Apple CEO

    http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9801/01/apple.oracle.reut/index.html

    It would appear that he put himself forth as a CEO candidate, and Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs jokingly sent him an email pretending to offer him the job... which is a bit cruel. But, still, it hardly means that he really was a "former Apple CEO candidate". Besides, who actually goes around proclaiming that?

     

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    nonuser, May 8th, 2006 @ 6:02pm

    Netscape

    Netscape was the big spinoff from SGI, even though it wasn't recognized at the time. Clark wrote in his book about how he recruited a bunch of SGI hands to provide the "adult supervision" to go with the kids who developed the Mosaic browser at UIUC. I think SSL was developed by one of the SGI guys, for instance.

    And of course, Netscape is the spiritual ancestor of Google.

    Amazing that SGI didn't even try to secure its flank in 3D graphics by buying out Alias. They could've perhaps morphed into a software company. Everyone knew that Moore's law was going to put the hurt on that company but Clark was the only one in power who did something about it - he bailed out.

     

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      Chris, May 8th, 2006 @ 8:47pm

      Re: Netscape

      The big spinoff from SGI was really MIPS. They're doing well in the embedded market. Cray was also spun off around the same time. Google occupies the same celebrity status that used to be SGIs, they even bought SGIs old corporate headquaters in Mountain View. However, nVidia is the real sucessor to SGI, they have a large portion of their old staff. The original GeForce was basically a cut down InfiniteReality design imiplemented in one piece of silicon, that got them in trouble! And ATI's fortunes really changed when they bought up ArtX which was a bunch of SGI engineers who left to make the graphics chips for Nintendo (remember that the Nintendo64 was built largely by SGI?).

      Anyway, maybe I misunderstand your post, but SGI buying out Alias? SGI bought Alias and Wavefront and formed Alias|Wavefront as a wholely owned subsidiary. They spun them off a few years ago. Not sure why they would want to buy back a company they just spun off.

      SGI has always resisted being a software company, for good or bad. I guess it was smart of Jim Clark to leave his baby and head on to something new. But it's still sad. Maybe there was some course they could have taken that would have lead to a bright future ... I still say SGI could have also been nVidia but they had their heads up their asses, they were too snobby and didn't want to dip "down" into the low-end/home/video game market.

       

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        nonuser, May 9th, 2006 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re: Netscape

        D'oh! I didn't realize that SGI bought Alias/Wavefront.

        Another hard remember that I'm better off commenting anonymously on someone else's blog, than running my own.

         

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    Walter Dnes, May 8th, 2006 @ 8:58pm

    Intel seduced its competitors to their destruction

    Everybody concentrates on how MS destroys competitors. Intel has done a number on 3 of the top chips, and they've done it with unbelievable finesse. They put out ridiculous specs for their future "Itanium" product, and then...
    1) convinced Compaq (after it bought DEC) to dump the Alpha and go along with the Itanium.
    2) convinced HP to dump its PA-RISC offering in favour of the Itanium
    3) convinced SGI to dump the MIPS in favour of the Itanium

    When the Itanium turned out to be a dud the 3 companies, having burned their bridges behind themselves, had no option but to become mass-market assemblers/re-sellers for Intel. HP and Compaq/DEC were reduced to mere shadows of themselves and had to merge, and SGI has gone under. Thus, 3 potential strong competitors to Intel have disappeared from the chip manufacturing scene. *THAT is how to destroy ones competitors without anti-trust people catching on.

    The major competitors left are IBM (Cell+Power) and AMD.

     

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    nitrofurano, Nov 9th, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    maybe some chinese/taiwanese brand will buy SGI soon?

    A huge goal would be if some manufacturer, like those chinese or taiwanese, would buy SGI - this could be an awesome bet, because, SGI sounds much better than ASUS, Acer or MSI - and SGI has an historical background all these chinese/taiwanese don't, has a concern about design and product these others don't, and may start to bet also on a very interesting market niche - and Lenovo realized it when bought the IBM's hardware division...

     

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