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HP jumps into mobile workstations

Hewlett-Packard is coming out with a mobile workstation that packs most of the power of its desktop workstations but weighs only six pounds.

For geophysicists on the go, Hewlett-Packard has come out with a mobile workstation that packs most of the power of its desktop workstations but weighs only six pounds.

The workstation--the Compaq Evo Mobile Workstation N800w--joins a small, yet growing market for computers targeted at chip designers, researchers and digital artists who require lots of computing power but also happen to travel.

"It's not just a notebook with a new label slapped on it," said Paul Reid, North American product manager for workstations at HP.

Unlike standard notebooks, the workstation has been extensively tested with a variety of CAD and other design applications to ensure that they run smoothly. HP is also currently working to certify that Red Hat Linux will run on the machine. Although almost nonexistent in the standard notebook and desktop market, Linux is used on a growing percentage of workstations.

Additionally, the components have been beefed up. The Evo N800w comes with an ATI Mobility Fire GL graphics card with 64MB of memory dedicated to graphics. Standard notebook graphics cards come with 8MB to 32MB of memory.

Market research firm IDC estimates that 180,000 mobile workstations will be sold in 2006. Around 7,000 are sold per quarter now, Reid said. Still, the market has already attracted Dell Computer, IBM, and some licensees of Sun Microsystems.

Although more powerful than a standard notebook, the Evo N800w, like many other mobile workstations, does not handle some features of the more expensive workstations. The mobile units come with Pentium 4 processors, and not Xeon chips. The extra heat produced by the more powerful Xeon chips would require HP to incorporate too much in the way of cooling technology.

"The weight would be a good 10 pounds," said Debbie Loo, North American notebook product manager for HP. The new machine weighs six pounds.

The Evo N800w comes with a 2.2GHz Pentium 4, up to 2GB of memory, a 15-inch screens and 30GB, 40GB or 60GB drives. Windows XP Pro or 2000 comes standard. The basic configuration starts at $3,899.