Hoping to broaden the market for supercomputers beyond universities and national research institutes, NEC has taken the wraps off a small supercomputer designed to sit next to a desk and serve a single office.

The machine does however cost a tasty £105,000 for the lower of the two models on offer.

"Supercomputers are very expensive and we introduced this class of machine so that each laboratory and small organisation can purchase one without having to have a special budget," said Kosuke Yamauchi, a spokesman for NEC.

Based on a single SX-6 microprocessor with performance of 8Gflops (billion floating point operations per second), the computer is available with either 4GB or 8GB of main memory that has a maximum data transfer rate of 32GB per second.

Physically, the deskside version of the machine measures 450x730x700mm and weighs 100 kilograms. It runs the Super-UX Unix-based operating system and supports Fortran 90/SX and C++/SX programming languages.

Beyond the low price (well, everything's relative), another advantage of the SX-6i is the architecture it shares with other supercomputers in NEC's SX-6 range, which was introduced in October. This means users are able to run any software written for SX-6 machines on the new computer, said the spokesman.