IBM unveils slick NetVistas, peripherals

If your spring cleaning includes doing something about that hulking monitor, snake pit of wires, and bulky beige CPU (central processing unit), IBM Corp. might have a solution with its slimmer, wireless systems unveiled on Tuesday.

IBM has added two sleek NetVista all-in-one PCs to its roster. They include a wireless mouse and keyboard, and a radial arm to lift your PC above the desktop din. Used together, IBM says, its new X40 systems take up 75 percent less space than a traditional desktop system.

"Our goal is to redefine the user experience," says Bruce Rasa, NetVista product marketing manager. As it becomes harder for PC vendors to distinguish one PC from another, IBM representatives say the company is focusing on aesthetics and flexibility of PC hardware.

"Desktops haven't been as flexible as we would like them to be," Rasa says.

Both new models, the consumer X40i and commercial X40, are aimed at people as interested in saving space as they are concerned with style. However, because both models rely on integrated graphic and sound cards that depend on a PC's central processor, IBM says both will have less appeal to PC gamers who crave high-performance video.

IBM's US$99 Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Kit will be bundled with select IBM PCs and also sold separately. A US$219 NetVista Radial Arm X Mount can be purchased alone or can be configured as part of new NetVista system.

Systems start at $US1399

On the low end of IBM's consumer offerings is the X40i system, priced at US$1399 when ordered through the company's Web site. It ships with a 633-MHz Intel Celeron processor, a 15-inch TFT flat panel display, 64MB of memory (upgradeable to 512MB), a 20GB hard disk, modem, and CD-ROM drive. The configuration also includes Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Millennium, Lotus Development Corp. SmartSuite, and a one-year warranty. Two integrated speakers are included along with support for two Low Profile PCI card slots for upgrades.

The high-end X40i is priced at US$2049 for online orders. It ships with a 1GHz Intel Pentium III processor, 15inch flat panel display, 128MB of memory, the wireless keyboard and mouse kit, a 20GB hard disk, CD-RW drive, and integrated Ethernet.

Commercial NetVista models start at US$1899. The introductory X40 ships with Intel's Pentium III 1GHz processor, 15-inch TFT flat panel display, 64MB of memory (upgradeable to 512MB), a 20GB hard disk, integrated Ethernet, and a CD-ROM drive. Speakers are included along with two Low Profile PCI card slots. The X40 comes with Lotus SmartSuite and Windows 2000 software along with an onsite three-year warranty. The wireless keyboard and radial arm are both upgrade options.

IBM merges desktop, notebook divisions

The systems are the first to be offered by IBM since this week's merger of the company's desktop and notebook divisions. The combined branches create a new Personal Computing Devices group by marrying IBM's NetVista desktop and ThinkPad portable product lines.

The all-in-one X40 and X40i PCs typify that relationship. Both are hybrids of notebook and desktop technology. For example, the NetVista X40i uses a notebook CD-ROM drive and runs a desktop-class microprocessor, all on a reduced-size motherboard.

Analysts applaud IBM's strategy. But in the case of the new all-in-one models, experts warn some buyers might be turned away from the integration of expensive flat panel displays with processors that quickly become obsolete.

"Nobody wants to throw away an expensive flat panel display because they want to replace the processor," points out Dataquest analyst Martin Reynolds.

Last year IBM was the number eight consumer-PC seller, according to market researcher International Data Corp. PC vendors Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. were in a dead heat last year for the number one consumer brand. Both outsold Gateway Inc. and eMachines Inc.

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