HP's new PCs - it's all in the 'e'

Hewlett-Packard is creating a new formula for the small-form-factor PC

The company Tuesday will announce its new e-PC, a series of low-cost, small-form-factor PCs for corporations and small businesses.

The e-PC will replace, over time, HP's eVectra and Brio offerings for corporations and small businesses, respectively.

The company chose to combine the characteristics of the two other product lines in e-PC because "there's not a lot of difference between corporate and small business needs," said Eric Chanoit, HP's worldwide marketing manager for e-PC, based in Grenoble, France.

The new PC -- which HP says is about one-fourth the size of a traditional PC -- has an all-in-one feel in that its power supply and modem can be mounted on the back of the PC's new flat panel monitor, which reduces clutter. The company said the new e-PC's design will also reduce maintenance costs.

Businesses tend to shy away from all-in-one form-factor PCs, said Chanoit, "because the lifecycle of the PC is three to four years, whereas the lifecycle of the monitor is about six years". But HP doesn't believe businesses will shy away from e-PC, he said.

"Our vision is that in two to three years, around 60 percent of our commercial PC business will come from e-PC," Chanoit said, adding that the company will nonetheless continue to have two product lines "for awhile."

HP has taken to calling the rest of its business PC offerings "classic PCs". The company will continue to emphasise its classic PC lines, with updates and new form factors, but e-PC is where HP officials have said their PC-business future lies.

Joining Compaq's iPAQ e-PC joins Compaq's iPAQ PC in the small-form-factor, "legacy reduced" PC category.

These PCs have slimmed-down form factors and instead of using older peripheral connect technologies, turn to Universal Serial Bus in order to attach devices such as modems.

HP's e-PC will be available for two audiences. Its small business e-PC starts at $849, with a 633MHz Intel Celeron chip, 64MB of RAM, 10GB hard drive, modem, CD-ROM drive, and Microsoft's Word 2000, running on Windows 98.

The top-of-the-line small business e-PC, priced at $1,399, offers an 800MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, modem, and Office 2000, running on Windows 2000.

HP's corporate e-PC starts at $659, with a 700MHz Celeron, 64MB of RAM, and 10GB hard drive, but without a CD-ROM drive or modem.

It tops out at $1,169 with an 866MHz Pentium III and Windows 2000. The company is also working on e-PC versions with the 933MHz Pentium III.

HP's new 15-inch flat panel display, developed to go with e-PC, will cost about $849, Chanoit said.

E-PCs will be released in Europe in November, according to a Hewlett-Packard press release. European prices were not available at the time of going to press.

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