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HP ushers in blade PC, switches chips

HP refashions its blade PC to make it more palatable to corporate buyers.

Hewlett-Packard introduced a new line of blade PCs on Monday, and this time it included a processor that corporate customers are more willing to buy.

The HP bc1500 blade PC sports a low-power Athlon 64 processor from Advanced Micro Devices. Last year, HP released its first blade PCs, which included processors from Transmeta. While Transmeta chips consume relatively low amounts of energy--important for dense blade computers--corporate buyers have largely shunned computers containing the chip.

Corporate IT buyers, while they want performance, typically want a familiar brand. AMD has a track record for producing chips in volume, a crucial consideration if an IT manager is worried about a product being discontinued or delayed.

HP also recently bought RLX Technologies, which makes blade management software. Although RLX focused on blade servers, the technology conceivably could be used to manage desktop blades.

Blade PCs differ from standard PCs in that they sit in a rack in a central computer room. Users tap into them through a keyboard and a communications port on their desk. Unlike thin clients, each blade has its own hard drive and processor. Although blade PCs aren't nearly as popular as blade servers, a number of Wall Street firms have adopted them for some operations.

By keeping the PCs in a centralized rack, maintenance costs can be lowered while security can be improved. It also saves desk space.

Austin, Texas-based ClearCube Technologies began promoting the concept in 2002 and has landed its blade PCs in several financial firms. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has deployed a ClearCube system to agents who monitor the skies for suspicious activities. ClearCube uses Intel processors.

So far, HP is the only large computer maker to enter the market with its own product. Both Lenovo and IBM resell ClearCube systems, however.