Targeting the "mainstream corporate environment," Sun Microsystems Computer Co. is introducing a line of interactive video servers for financial institutions and other organizations.
The company, a division of Sun Microsystems Inc., Mountain View, Calif., also has created an interactive services group, and has formed a number of partnerships with well-known technology vendors that will provide network hardware, install systems, and develop applications for banks and other customers.
The new line of video servers, called MediaCenter, offers a range of systems to fit a variety of applications. This will allow the company to penetrate a virtually untapped and growing market for interactive video, according to company officials.
"Businesses are seeking to make video a normal part of their computing architectures," said Anil Gadre, vice president for corporate marketing at Sun. "Video will become a standard part of how we communicate over a network, just as audio, text, and e-mail are now."
Analysts report that the corporate market for video is expanding. According to International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.-based technology consultants, the corporate interactive video server market will grow to $2.2 billion by 1998. In 1994 the market was $104 million.
Jay Bretzmann, IDC director, worldwide systems research, said much of the demand will be for high-end units that are used for video-on-demand applications.
But interest is also building for lower-end systems suitable for department training and videoconferencing applications, he said.
More companies are beginning to make use of these systems because network technology capable of handling such high-bandwidth applications is being widely deployed, he said.
Mr. Bretzmann added that Sun is luring "early adopters" with "the right bundle of hardware and software to deliver quality video to the desktop. Sun has the expertise required, and partnerships will bring them more."
Leveraging its existing market strongholds, Sun said it plans to focus on the financial services, retail, and computer-based training areas. It intends to work with partners to develop interactive video applications.
In financial services, the company has already built a strong reputation with its powerful, Unix-based workstations used on Wall Street and by several large commercial banks for trading and risk management.
Though the interactive video market represents a new opportunity for Sun, Mr. Gadre pointed out that the company does not have to search for a market.
"Leading institutions are looking to exploit network computing and get a jump on the competition," he said.
Sun is working with many vendors to develop such applications as news to the desktop for bank treasury and trading floors, video training, interactive kiosks, and video warehousing.
Some companies will provide network switches, plug-in computer cards, and other hardware. Software vendors such as Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc. will supply applications. And systems integrators such as Andersen Consulting & Co. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. will help customers design and install systems, train users, and develop applications.
Some vendors will work to tackle market-specific niches, said Mr. Gadre. Andersen, for example, will focus on corporate training and video kiosks, while EDS will work on media warehousing and content management.
Other partners include Logica Inc., SSDS, the Allied Group Inc., and Teknekron Software Systems Inc.
Through its partners program and the interactive services group, Sun will provide vendors with product and marketing, technical, and business development support.
The interactive services unit is headed up by Anne Schowe, who has been named vice president and general manager. Ms. Schowe formerly worked at AT&T Microelectronics, a unit of AT&T Corp., where she focused on videoconferencing and other multimedia applications.