by Zsolt Kerekes,
was the first company to market a SPARC portable, way back in 1992, which they
called the SPARCbook.|
A year or so later
thought this was such a good idea that Sun themselves launched their own
portable which they called the Voyager. Unfortunately Sun's portable was more
like a luggable. It was a dog, and marked the end of Sun's adventures in the
portable arena for a decade.
In the early 1990s Tadpole had the SPARC
notebook market to itself and although several
oems (such as
Systems Integration and
Systems) marketed SPARC portables - these were mostly heavyweight luggables
which integrated the motherboards from
workstations or embedded motherboards such as
VME SPARC SBCs.
An exception was
Electronique whose military portable was actually a ruggedized version of
The first serious threat to Tadpole's cosy
dominance of the SPARC notebook market came in 1997 from
RDI Computer, which
it started advertising its own US designed and manufactured products here in the
those days SPARC notebooks typically cost several times as much as a desktop
workstation so the market wasn't big enough to support multiple suppliers.
Tadpole and RDI merged in October 1998 to form Tadpole-RDI.
in 2000 Tadpole (whose products at that time included SPARC motherboards and
to expand its presence in the SPARC market by acquiring
Computer (a maker of customer installable SPARC upgrade motherboards). But
the original promise from that merger (success in the commercial server market)
never took fruit - because
revenue growth hit a brick wall in the first quarter of 2001.
marked the end of the SPARC compatible market for most oems
although it had been
But then fate intervened - and as a result of the
massive military spending in the US which followed 9/11 - Tadpole's SPARC
portable business grew rapidly.
I commented on the popularity of SPARC
notebooks with our readers in this publication and that did not go unnoticed -
2002 a new name appeared in the SPARC notebook market - with the first of
many product generations from Taiwan based
quickly established distribution channels in Europe and the US. But it was the
growing military market in the US where it found greatest success - with
luggable portables which were customized by its US resellers
January 2004 - 64
bit SPARC notebooks broke the $2,000 price barrier.
In Q1 2005 -
SPARC Product Directory
revealed that the #1 product category viewed by SPARC readers in February
2005 was this page,
followed by rackmount
In June 2005 -
Sun said it would
soon launch its own brand of SPARC notebooks. These were based on models
from Naturetech and Tadpole.
Dynamics acquired Tadpole. And, as predicted at the time, the product line
disappeared from view into various military programs and hasn't been updated or
marketed to the civilian market since.
In 2006 it seemed that
competition in the SPARC notebook was at an end. But in November
Ultrasystems launched a range of SunRay notebooks (with end-user pricing
around $950 to $1,050) which offered a new route for users to get the
benefits of the SPARC / Solaris environment at a much lower price than
This 15 year unrolling story of the SPARC notebook
market is paused for now. But it will be updated according to events.
About the author
This article was written by Zsolt Kerekes
who, as editor of the SPARC
Product Directory, had direct contact with every SPARC oem worldwide during
the period 1992 to 2000 (and before in the period 1987 to 1991 was technical
manager of a SPARC oem in the military / defense market)
copyright ACSL (1992 to 2008).
PS - That means
in Sun too!