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New designs shrink business PCs

Three leading manufacturers introduce models that are up to 40 percent smaller than traditional desktops.

    Three leading manufacturers today introduced "microtower" PCs that are up to 40 percent smaller than traditional desktops, setting the stage for a new wave of business systems that are easier to manage.

    Based on an Intel circuit board design for compact PCs, these new desktops from Gateway, Compaq, and Micron are modular, in many cases allowing for easy upgrading of critical components.

    While companies like Toshiba have already introduced business computers featuring modularity, and PC makers such as Monorail have debuted models with equally compact designs, today's news indicates an emerging trend in business computing. Size and modularity will join management as a key feature of corporate PCs.

    "What we're going to see in the

    Deskpro EN
    Compaq Deskpro EN Series Small Form Factor
    corporate market is a more homogenous PC," said Scott Miller, a Dataquest analyst. "The ideal is having a fundamental platform that you can use from top to bottom, with the same BIOS, chipset, the same graphics chips, and then you can swap out processors and swap out hard drives."

    Apart from their size, the new PCs are being promoted as easier to maintain from a central location. The Compaq systems, for example, include technologies such as Wired for Management and Microsoft Zero Administration. Both allow upgrades and PC management to be done from a single, remote location. Tasks such as remote PC "wakeup" and installation of operating systems, applications, and system configurations are also possible, according to Compaq.

    "You can add resources at a central point, which is a little bit more manageable," Miller said.

    Micron's new business-ready PCs are based on Intel's microATX motherboard for microtower computers. The Millenia 400, starting at $1,899, features a 400-MHz Pentium II processor, 64MB of memory, and 8.4 GB hard drive.

    The ATX motherboard is the first of Intel's "Basic PCs"--a design for low-cost computers which was announced earlier this year. The downsized ATX incorporates several different hardware features in one motherboard, creating a smaller system profile and making the computer easier to service.

    Compaq's new Deskpro EN Series Small Form Factor starts at $1,199, but higher-end systems include up to 400-MHz Pentium II processors, 64MB of memory, and a 6.4GB hard drive. Compaq's new systems feature quick-release cover latches for tool-free accessibility and feature a 12.5-inch-by-14.6-inch chassis.

    Gateway's new E-3200 features a slide-out motherboard and convertible chassis. The E-3200 300 configuration, with 300 MHz Pentium II processor, 64MB of memory, and a 4GB hard drive, starts at $1399. The E-3200 400 configuration, with 400-MHz Pentium II processor, 64MB of memory, and a 6.4GB hard drive, starts at $2,149.