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HP unsheathes its blade PC

Hewlett-Packard says a combination of its blades and thin clients should let companies replace their now standard networked desktop PCs.

Hewlett-Packard wants to make it easier for a company to control its desktop computers.

The company on Monday said it's begun shipping its HP Blade PC bc1000, a primary component of its Consolidated Client Infrastructure package, which allows companies to centralize the administration of their desktop computers. HP says this approach reduces support costs, boosts productivity and helps protect data.

The new blade PCs can be used, in conjunction with the company's thin clients, to replace the networked desktop PCs that most companies now issue their employees, HP says.

To use the Consolidated Client Infrastructure, a company places an inexpensive HP thin client, or computer terminal, on each desktop, and connects to a remote blade PC via a computer network. The procedure enables a company to consolidate its desktop computers in one location to simplify their administration, centralize data storage and bolster productivity, HP said in a statement.

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The HP thin clients and blade PCs allow workers to log in, access files and input data the same way they would on a normal desktop computer. HP says companies using its blade PCs will see lower support costs, because placing them in the same location makes hardware and software upgrades faster and easier.

Software updates can be handled overnight, and adding a new blade takes only about an hour. Meanwhile, companies may also see productivity gains, because the system can automatically assign a worker a new blade, if the one he or she is working on fails. This feature eliminates the worker's sitting idle while awaiting a fix for the computer problem, HP said in a statement.

Additionally, unlike a mainframe, a large computer that was shared by many users, the blade PC grants each employee his or her own virtual work space and the computer and processing power that goes with it.

HP said its Consolidated Client Infrastructure reduces support costs by as much as $1,200 annually per employee, when compared with a standard desktop PC. The package is part of HP's Adaptive Enterprise strategy, which is designed to help customers boost the return on their technology investments. The package is similar to computing schemes from other companies that have relied on centralized computers, and to products from companies such as start-up Clear Cube, which also makes blade PCs.

The Blade PC bc1000, HP's first blade model, will start at about $800 and come with a 1GHz Efficeon TM8000 processor, the latest low-power processor from chipmaker Transmeta, HP said.

However, the cost of switching an employee to the blade PC system will start at about $1,400, a sum that includes the costs for the blade hardware, thin client, additional networked-storage capacity and installation and training, the company said.