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The Launch Date Vanishes: UltraSPARC III

Scare or dare?

We were puzzled to read yesterday that Sun Microsystems is expected to launch its UltraSPARC III in ten days time. The date September 11 particularly leapt out at us, as the very next day Hewlett Packard gives birth to its long awaited Superdome servers at a lavish extravaganza in New York. The new boxes will replace the current top of the range V-class servers: seven figure boxes that will compete with Sun's E10000s, IBM's RS/6000 S80s and the larger Wildfires.

So we wondered, was Sun stooping so low as to plan a Superdome spoiler, with UltraSPARC III roped in as collateral? After all, no one expects UltraSPARC III to begin volume shipments until the end of the year, so to our cynical eyes, the timing had sushi written all over it.

Nor is this the kind of detail the normally fastidious eWeek gets wrong. The same publication was gracious enough to acknowledge (if not by name) a bold story in arch-rival InfoWorld earlier in the week alleging that Sun had silenced customers who discovered memory problems in their Sun kit with non-disclosure agreements before it would provide remedial service. That piece showed signs of being defanged by its editors - which isn't unusual, as Stateside publications typically have more layers of editors than us British have words for "rain" or "getting drunk". Either way, the story didn't quite produce the smoking pistol that linked a customer's signature of the NDA, which is standard procedure, to the withdrawal of favours - or more accurately, the promise that the fix would be made more speedily - that the headline demanded. However eWeek's article did appear to provide at least some circumstantial corroboration that the original lacked - with Gartner analyst Tom Henckel quoted as saying the analysts had received "frequent complaints" from Sun customers about the memory problem.

But back to UltraSPARC III - what is going on?

Sun tells us that the eWeekarticle is speculative and no such launch will take place on the 11th. Elsewhere from Sun we gather that no more UltraSPARC III shouldn't be expected until at least its network services launch at the end of the month.

It isn't merely journalistic solidarity that makes us suspect someone in Sun's stellar media team is being, uh ... more sophisticated than they need to be. ®

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