ClearCube cuts prices on PC blades

ClearCube Technology has slashed prices on its PC blades to compete with vendors of standard desktops and towers

ClearCube Technology slashed prices on its PC blades Monday, setting the company up to compete with standard desktop and tower vendors like Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Until now, ClearCube has sold its computers mainly to customers in health care, financial services and government, who were willing pay a premium for streamlined IT management and increased security. Customers throughout an office use book-sized "I/Ports" to connect via Ethernet cable to a single, centralized PC blade that holds their data and processors.

The company's new A Series PC blade and I8330 I/Port access device cost about US$1,300 including monitors and keyboards. That is a steep drop from the US$3,000 it has cost for ClearCube's R Series blade system, and approaching the US$800 cost of a comparable tower, said ClearCube Chief Executive Carl Boisvert. (However, Australian users will need to wait: the I8330 I/Port and A-Series blade will not be available until Q1 2007.)

"Before, we had been successful in niches; we didn't have a solution because of price for full-out desktop replacement. Now we've reached pricing parity for a full tower," he said. "With the advent of the A Series, we can sell into areas we walked away from before."

ClearCube cut the cost of the system by giving up some density; the A Series fits in a 6U enclosure compared to the R Series' 3U size. The company also saved on its processors, as Intel continues cutting prices to sell its last-generation Pentium 4 chips.

Still, the new system will be compatible with remote devices such as tablets and PDAs (personal digital assistants), despite ClearCube's switching from Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol to its own proprietary software called Transparent Desktop Extension. The A Series offers USB (Universal Serial Bus) redirection, a function that allows an I/Port user to download data from the blade onto a portable disk or key, and to use two-way peripherals like scanners and printers.

The company plans to add more features by June 2007 in a second-generation product, improving video streaming speed from 35 frames per second to 65 frames per second to support the heavy graphics demands of multi-monitor workstations, Boisvert said.

The price cut will help ClearCube compete in a much larger market, said Mark Margevicius, an analyst with Gartner.

"The hangup there is that customers compare their products to normal PCs, and the finance officers throw up a red flag at anything that costs more. So their customers have been the ones who are willing to pay for their value proposition," he said.

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