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IBM thinks small with new desktop

Big Blue launches the NetVista S42, a pint-size PC that IBM says takes up two-thirds less space than traditional desktops. Can it replace the NetVista X?

IBM's newest NetVista desktop is brought to you by the letter S--as in small.

IBM on Tuesday released the new NetVista S42, a small desktop that sells for as little as $950.

The new machine occupies up to 64 percent less space than a traditional desktop PC, according to the company. The unit comes with two PCI slots and three drive bays inside its 12.2-inch wide, 3.3-inch high and 13.6-inch deep chassis.

The NetVista S42, IBM's first all-new model since the NetVista M debuted last year, will take on Hewlett-Packard's new Evo D510 e-PC and Dell Computer's Optiplex GX150 Small Form Factor.

All three machines are targeted at businesses where office space is scarce, such as call centers, banks and retail counters. Tight office space has made small desktops big sellers in Japan for a number of years. In the United States and Europe, however, they have fared worse.

Nonetheless, businesses are looking at these PCs because they can provide the same capabilities of a regular desktop and take up less space, said Roger Kay, analysts with IDC. "The general rule (for manufacturers like IBM) is make a box as small as you can. Users do want a smaller desktop, but so long as they don't lose any functionality or have to pay any more to get it," Kay said.

Big Blue also came out with a flat-panel display to match its NetVista desktops. The new 15-inch display, the IBM T541H, will sell for $499.

The combination of the new display and the small desktop could help IBM fill the gap left by the NetVista X desktop, an all-in-one computer with a built-in flat-panel monitor that predated Apple's latest iMac. The NetVista X, which was discontinued earlier this year, won awards for its design but didn't sell well. Customers wanted to buy the PC and monitor separately, so they could upgrade or replace their desktops independently, IBM executives have said.

IBM will offer the new NetVista machine with a base configuration that includes a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 chip from Intel, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, built-in Ethernet and a three-year warranty. Its price starts at $929, according to IBM's Web site, while an S42 with a 2.53GHz Pentium 4 chip and a DVD-ROM drive comes to $1,259.