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HP slims down business PC lineup

Three new lines of business desktops will replace Hewlett-Packard's current four lines, in an attempt to make it easier for customers to figure out what they need.

Hewlett-Packard is aiming to simplify its desktop line for businesses.

This week, the company launched three new lines, its HP Compaq Business Desktop 2000 series, 5000 series and 7000 series. The trio will replace HP's four current lines of business desktops, numbered D220 through D530.

The three new families represent the desktop equivalent of small, medium and large, offering successively bigger helpings of computing power and features, HP executives said.

"We wanted to simplify the line and plus make it easier for customers to understand where they fit in," said David Hemphill, a product manager in HP's business PC division. "We feel it clarifies to customers?which machine they need to purchase."

The 2000 and 5000 lines are available now. The 7000 series will come out in the summer. All of the computers are configurable, depending on how one purchases them.

A customer with basic needs, for example, might purchase an HP Compaq Business Desktop dx2000, while a customer needing more computing power and greater manageability, such as the ability to administer to the PC remotely, might step up to a dc5000.

HP is pricing the machines to be competitive. The dx2000 and dc5000 start at $389 and $599, respectively. They come with Intel's Celeron or Pentium 4 processor and are based around the chipmaker's 865 chipset, which handles data inside a PC. Monitors are not included in the prices.

The $389 dx2000 comes with a 2.6GHz Celeron, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, Mandrake Linux 9.2 and a one-year warranty. It does not come with a floppy or optical drive. A $599 dc5000 offers the same basic features, but comes with 256MB of RAM and a three-year warranty.

A version of the dx2000 with a 2.6GHz Celeron, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM and Microsoft's Windows XP Professional Edition operating system will sell for $607, according to HP's Small and Medium Business Web site. A dc5000 with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4, 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive and Windows XP Professional will cost $829, the HP Web site said.

Many of HP's prices are close to rival Dell's. For example, Dell is charging $637, before rebates, for an Optiplex 170L configured to match the $607 dx2000, according to Dell's Small Business Web site. And Dell charges $805, before rebates, for an Optiplex GX270 configured the same as HP's $829 dc5000, according to Dell's Small Business Web site. Dell is currently offering $50 to $100 instant rebates on its Optiplex desktops for small businesses.

None of the prices for HP or Dell's desktops includes a monitor or a floppy drive. And the prices often change as the result of revolving promotions at both companies.

Still, Hemphill said, "From what we see today, we feel the 5000 (series) is very competitively priced versus the Dell Optiplex."

Meanwhile, HP plans to launch its Business Desktop 7000 series this summer. That line, which will offer the most performance and therefore cost the most of the HP trio, will serve customers who use dual monitors or who perform intensive tasks, such as video editing. The 7000 series will also come with Intel's latest hardware, including the Prescott version of the Pentium 4.

The Athlon option
Although the three new desktop lines from HP are all based on Intel hardware, the company will continue to offer a business desktop that includes Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon processor. HP will keep selling the Athlon XP-based Business Desktop D325, for the time being, Hemphill said. But he also indicated HP is working on a replacement machine.

"We're still committed, from a technology perspective, to giving customers a choice," he said. "We will offer (AMD) in a future product."

Although, executives would not discuss the details of that machine, HP will most likely step up to AMD's latest desktop chip, the Athlon 64, which came out in September. The company has been selling consumer desktops based on that chip since late last year.

This week, HP launched a new business notebook that includes AMD's Athlon 64 chip. Details on the machine were not immediately available.