Blade PCs approach mass-market pricing

By cutting the cost of blade PCs to around £500 per user, ClearCube is hoping to generate sales among small and medium-sized businesses
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

Blade PC manufacturer ClearCube is releasing a product range that it says is priced to appeal to small and medium-sized businesses.

ClearCube announced the launch of the A Series PC blades and a new desktop connector called the 8330 I/Port on Monday.

Blade PCs have been available from ClearCube for several years. They are based on the concept that instead of having a full computer at each desk, users just have a monitor and peripherals along with a desktop connector — which ClearCube dubs a Port — which connects to the server room. There, each PC is one blade in a chassis, where it can be easily managed and kept secure.

ClearCube has had success selling its products to financial institutions and government departments. With the client OS locked inside a server room, blade PCs offer a number of advantages of standard desktops: relatively easy security and software upgrades, for instance. They also make switching desktops easy, and enable some interesting tricks with virtualisation of client operating systems.

But, at anything up to $4,000 (£2,120) per seat, the pricing has been prohibitive, putting off many potential customers. ClearCube says its new products push this cost below the $1,000 (£530) price point.

ClearCube chief executive Carl Boisvert said in a statement that the A Series PC blade, coupled with the 8330 I/Port, would help it win new customers and enable existing customers to expand their use of PC blades.

The A1010 PC blade is the sequel to the R Series, and ClearCube has made some significant changes. "We've built a slightly larger blade, so we're not having to do customised boards anymore," said Ken Knotts, senior technologist for ClearCube. The A1010 uses a Pentium 4 processor, and contains an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive and 512MB of RAM.

In the new I/Port, ClearCube has removed the Windows XP Embedded OS, thereby cutting licensing charges. As with earlier I/Ports, the 8330 will run over a standard Ethernet connection, which means the user can access their PC remotely — even from home. "A user could have one I/Port at their desk, and a second one at home," said Knotts.

Knotts explained that ClearCube has also helped to develop a new protocol, called Transparent Desktop eXtension (TDX) technology, to handle the transfer of data between the blade PC and the user.

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