NEC selling 'green' desktop

NEC Solutions on Monday launched the PowerMate eco, a fanless, ecologically sensitive desktop PC.

Some of the environmentally friendly computing features include the absence of boron in the CRT monitor and a motherboard made of lead-free solder, which is important in reclamation of PCs.

NEC Solutions also claims the eco's plastic casing is 100 percent recyclable. The material is called NuCycle, a polycarbonate resin mixed with flame-retardant silicone, company officials said.

The PCs start shipping in the US on Monday through direct online sales and major resellers. A standard configuration will cost US$1,599 for a 900-MHz Transmeta Corp. Crusoe Processor, a 15-in. LCD display, 256MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive, CD-ROM and use either Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Professional.

NEC officials are betting that corporations and other buyers will be interested in an environmentally friendly computer at that price. "It will be desirable for the health care market and financial trading rooms and calls centers or government agencies which are remarkably space-sensitive" and often face mandates for recycling of old PCs, said Larry Miller, vice president of NEC Solutions in North America, in an interview.

The eco's footprint, or the amount of space it takes on a desk, is about 11.5 in. by 9 in., and is included in the base of the monitor, not in a separate box or tower, Miller said. The unit uses about a third of the power and generates about a third of the heat of a conventional desktop. Because it doesn't use a fan, the machine is quiet and doesn't blow dirty air into the environment, a potential problem for hospitals.

But one analyst said the price will put off buyers. "It is too expensive," said Brian Gammage, an analyst at Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. He pointed out that at $1,600, the price tag is more than double the $700 cost for a Dell Computer Corp. Dimension 4500S running an Intel Pentium 4 processor.

Getting users to think of green computing instead of processor speed and hard-disk capacity will be a "major challenge" for NEC, Gammage added.

But Miller said corporations could soon face congressional mandates to pay for recycling of desktops and monitors, which would be an incentive to consider the eco. One bill before Congress calls for a new Environmental Protection Agency program to mandate computer recycling, funded by a $10 fee on retail sales of desktops, laptops and monitors.

NEC Corp. is involved in the Green Purchasing Network in Japan, a nongovernmental organization made up of 2,700 members devoted to promoting green purchasing. The eco system was recently launched in Japan under the name of NEC Mate.

NEC Australia says that at this stage, it has no definite plans to bring the product to Australia, but is looking at the possibility of a launch in October.

Joris Evers of IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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