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HP to introduce desktop blades

Hewlett-Packard is set to take the desktop off the desk later this month, when it unveils its latest blade computing system for businesses. The setup stores workers' PCs on a central rack.

Hewlett-Packard will try to take the desktop off the desk later this month, when it formally unveils the Consolidated Client Infrastructure, its latest blade computing system for corporations.

Under CCI, a user's data and software runs on a centrally managed rack of blade computers and storage devices. Individuals can use handhelds, keyboards, terminals or even PCs and notebooks to tap into their data.

The system differs from terminal, or thin client, systems in that all users work on full-fledged Windows XP PCs that are assigned to them--the computers just happen to be in a closet. In terminal systems, users are working on a sliver of server space.

Consolidating computing power in this manner can reduce information technology management costs, according to advocates, and can also make it a lot easier to get individuals back online if a PC crashes.

Austin, Texas-based start-up ClearCube Technology came out with the first bladed desktop systems. The company has installed bladed desktop systems at financial institutions and at some military installations. IBM has resold some ClearCube systems, but HP is the first major manufacturer to develop and market its own blade-based desktop system. To date, the blade concept has been mostly used to squeeze servers and communication equipment more efficiently into racks.

HP's interest in bladed desktops first came to light in May. The company is expected to discuss CCI at Comdex, the annual computing trade show that begins Nov. 16 in Las Vegas. HP sent out a statement that the company will discuss there under nondisclosure agreements "a new business computing model that offers customers greater manageability, flexibility and long-term cost savings."

HP could not be reached for comment. Typically, the company does not comment on unannounced products.

Although HP is expected to tout that CCI can cut desktop management costs by up to 50 percent, the hardware isn't cheap. A blade with a 1GHz Intel Pentium M processor and a hard drive will cost about $2,000, according to sources. A blade that has a 1.8GHz Efficeon Transmeta processor will cost $1,000.

To access data, HP is recommending that corporations adopt HP terminals, which also contain Transmeta processors.