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Pushing dual-core PCs beyond the desktop

Sparked by the introduction of Intel's Pentium D processor, PC makers discuss transformations in computer design and use.

The launch on Thursday of Intel's Pentium D processor sparked debate among computer makers about what shape next-generation PCs will take.

Gerald Holzhammer, a vice president with Intel's digital home group, said PC makers could use the new dual-core Pentium chips to dream up new forms and functions beyond the standard tower design.

"I won't say it is as exciting as the Internet was about 10 years ago, but it comes pretty close," Holzhammer said during a launch event Thursday.

Holzhammer said 70 percent of Intel's Pentium systems are used in standard box designs, with the next-largest percentage powering laptops. But he noted that there is a small yet growing number of Pentium chips appearing in new categories of machines such as media-center PCs and extreme-gaming devices.

"For the first time it is a PC pushing into the living room," he said. "In that respect, the PC must almost become a server and manage multiple activities."

Holzhammer said Intel is wooing its hardware vendors with additional features in the Pentium D line, including support for two different specifications of RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) storage, high-definition audio and a graphics engine that will support the improvements in the next generation of Microsoft's Windows operating system, code named Longhorn.

PC makers, meanwhile, were in lock step with Intel's dual-core Pentium plans.

Dell revealed its new Dimension 9100 computer, which supports the Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 operating system. The company also announced that it is now shipping 500-GB1 Serial ATA 2 hard drives on its Dimension XPS Gen 5 desktop, which is designed for gamers and multimedia enthusiasts.

The No. 2 PC maker, HP, showed off its Media Center PC m7100y, with networking capabilities, as well as the HP Pavilion d4100y, business desktops in the Compaq dc7600 line and the HP xw4300 workstation.

Lenovo said it would deliver its ThinkCentre M52 and ThinkCentre A52 desktop PCs in June for high-end users and small and medium-size businesses.

Intel itself has for years designed its chips around next-generation PC concepts. The company's more notable forays into that realm included a mini tower and its portable Florence Digital Home desktop design.

And while Intel has been touting the Pentium D's multi-user capabilities, Holzhammer said most users would stick to a single- computer-per-user philosophy for the near term.