So long as the cost of office space remains high, companies will want to make ever more efficient use of it. This is a major driving force behind IBM's latest desktop PC, the ThinkCentre S50 'ultra small', which the company says is the smallest it has ever made.
At the unveiling of this diminutive desktop, the general manager of IBM's Personal Computing Division, Fran O'Sullivan, spoke of 'excitement' about the new product – not a word often heard about desktop PCs these days. The S50 ultra small is certainly compact: it measures 28cm wide by 26cm deep by 8.5cm high, planting a footprint that's actually 8 per cent smaller than that of a ThinkPad T41 notebook. The 6kg system is also 35 per cent smaller (by volume) than the current S50 model. But IBM is at pains to stress that this is a fully functional PC. Models will be based on Pentium 4 or Celeron processors, will have an internal power supply rather than an external brick, one PCI slot, six USB 2.0 ports, serial and parallel ports, a slimline optical drive bay that will accept drives from the ThinkPad notebook range, and a 3.5in. (desktop) hard disk up to 160GB in capacity. The S50 ultra small is also the strong and silent type: IBM claims that the system unit will bear the weight of a 22in. CRT monitor if necessary, and that noise has been reduced from 41dBA to 39dBA thanks to the use of rubber damping on the hard disk caddy. Access to the system is 'totally tool-free' according to IBM. All of these physical improvements to the S50 are complemented by IBM's suite of ThinkVantage services, which include backup and recovery of disk images to guard against software failure (Rescue and Recovery with Rapid Restore), software image management (ImageUltra), and local/online technical support (Access IBM). Like many other IBM systems, the S50 ultra small also comes with IBM's Embedded Security Subsystem, a hardware- and software-based solution that securely stores sensitive data. The new ThinkCentre S50 ultra small will be priced from around $600 (~£330) and will be available through IBM's usual channels from August 2004.