Over on OpenSolaris.org, I jumped into a discussion regarding the availability - or more accurately lack of - a cheap sparc desktop machine.
At the present time, Sun sell a number of desktop sparc machines: SunBlade 150, SunBlade 1500, SunBlade 2500, and the new Ultra 45.
Frankly, why they're still selling the 150 is beyond me - it wasn't exactly quick when it was introduced in 2002 and it's a painful experience trying to use one with modern bloated software. It's horrifically expensive, and the available configurations aren't up to much. £2000 for a crippled antique? No thankyou...
The SunBlade 1500 isn't really that bad a machine. It's still over £2000, but it's not that much more than the 150 and is 2-3 times better. Still, £2000 just to get off the ground? Heavens...
I'll skip the 2500, as I think the Ultra 45 is similarly specified, but with a little more expansion and future-proofing. The starting price isn't that much more than a 1500 either, but rapdily rises.
All these boxes are out of my price range as an individual, and I couldn't really justify an employer buying them either.
The more powerful boxes are better value, but you have to pay for the privilege.
As far as I'm concerned, a reasonable entry-level box would be something like the SB1500, at about £1000 or so. Doesn't have to be fancy, but XVR-100 graphics and 512M memory minimum.
There's a similar story when it comes to sparc servers. Sun still sell the V100 and V120. OK, so there's a good market, and these machines have their uses. And they don't have much competition - there aren't many other machines of that low a spec out there.
At least with servers you definitely get into value-for-money territory as you move up the range. Certainly any of the T1 (Niagara) boxes are awesome. But there isn't much value in the sub £5000 space. Again, something like a V100 but with a modern US-IIIi processor at just over the £1000 mark would be handy.
The whole sparc low-end lineup looks incredibly stale. Even the Ultra 45 isn't much more than a SB2500 rehash (a good rehash, but still a rehash).
As might be expected, there's more in the Opteron world down at the low end. You can't really quarrel with the X2100 and Ultra 20.
But even here, Sun make it hard to get something decent. The problem (and this afflicts the whole of the range) is the lack of configuration choice. They seem to make the basic assumption that there's a cheap and nasty option that has the minimum of everything, then have another option in which most things are upgraded, and maybe another option in which everything is maxed out. That's not what I want. I don't want to have to pay for a fancy graphics card just to get a faster cpu, or the other way round. And sometimes I might actually want the base system with a 250G drive. Most PC vendors I look at allow you to select the various components of the system independently, so that I can put together a system that's balanced to meet my needs, but Sun won't let me do that.