IBM is sticking AMD's Opteron into its first workstation, available from May.

The IntelliStation A Pro workstation will be based on the AMD Opteron Model 244, 246 and 248 processors, at 1.8GHz, 2.0GHz and 2.2GHz, respectively, and will be available in dual-processor and single-processor configurations.

The product will be the first Opteron workstation from a major vendor to ship in North America, said Sarang Ghatpande, an analyst with D.H. Brown. However, it has already been beaten in Europe by Fujitsu Siemens with its dual-processor Celsius V810.

IBM is hoping that the 64-bit Opteron will enable it to extend beyond the CAD market, where most of its workstations traditionally have been sold, into markets like digital content creation, visualisation and seismic analysis. Existing RISC 64-bit systems tend to be a little on the pricey side and an Opteron system should offer the same performance, at a lower price.

Ghatpande expects other hardware vendors to follow suit with Opteron workstations of their own. "I'm sure somebody else will do an Opteron-based workstation," he said. "It has a good value proposition for workstation applications."

That much is already true of Opteron's use in higher-end systems. IBM was the first to go with Opteron for high-performance computing apps, although it soon said it could see the processor used in other markets. It was followed by Sun, which stuck it in its Fire V20z - due next month. Then, HP did a U-turn and decided Opteron was right for it as well.

AMD in the meantime kept the momentum going with the launch of new, low-power Opteron versions, aimed at blade servers and workstations. IBM has taken it at its word.

A single-processor IntelliStation A Pro with a 1.8GHz processor, an NVidia graphics card and 1GB of memory will start at $2,619 (£1,440), according to IBM. It will support the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Suse's Linux, as well as the 32-bit version of Windows XP Professional. Windows 64-bit support will follow, when Microsoft ships its version of Windows for the Opteron processor, which is expected later this year.