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Big Blue desktops gain speed

IBM says it has added speed to its NetVista desktop PC line and launched new management software that can save companies money.

Delivering on a promise to become more competitive in the PC market, IBM refreshed its NetVista desktop PC line with faster processors and launched new management software Wednesday.

IBM bumped up the speed of its NetVista A30p and NetVista M42 desktops to 3.06GHz using Intel's newest Pentium 4 processor.

The company also said it would begin offering ImageUltra Builder software next month. ImageUltra Builder allows companies to create software images--the collection of operating system, application and driver software that resides on a PC--and use them to upgrade existing PCs or load software on new PCs.

Offering ImageUltra software is one of the first phases of a plan hatched by IBM's Personal Computing Group to deliver PCs that help customers reduce their information technology costs. IBM says that using the software can help companies save up to $100 on the total cost of owning a PC.

By helping customers to reduce costs, IBM can market its PCs more aggressively against competitors Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard. The company first announced the strategy--which includes changing the name of its NetVista desktops to ThinkCenter--in early November. IBM previewed some of its potential new management software offerings this week at Comdex Fall 2002.

IBM is aiming to use the software to differentiate itself from other manufacturers. Even though the new PCs "may look the same, when you turn them on...what differentiates them is what's inside," a company representative said.

One such application, Client Rescue and Recovery, will allow a PC to connect to the Internet and run diagnostic tests even if its hard drive is disabled and cannot boot its Windows operating system.

Meanwhile, IBM's speedier new desktops begin with the $1,519 NetVista M42 8303E1U model. The desktop pairs the new 3.06GHz Pentium 4 chip with 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and Windows XP Professional with a three-year warranty. It uses Intel's built-in graphics. The price does not include a monitor, according to the company's Web site.

The new IBM desktops join a large field of new machines based on the 3.06GHz, which were introduced last week.

IBM also bumped its least expensive PC, the NetVista A30, to 2GHz. Its least expensive 2GHz A30 is the 8315B1U model, which includes the Celeron chip, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and a one-year warranty for a starting price of $599. The machine includes Windows XP Professional as its operating system, but the price does not come with a monitor, the Web site said.

IBM will begin selling ImageUltra Builder early next month for $995. That price includes 30 licenses for software images created by the application. Additional images will cost $15 each or $12 each for purchases of 10,000 or more, the company said in a statement.