IBM rolls out new PCs, laptops

IBM on Tuesday took another step in helping IT administrators to better integrate Big Blue's corporate PC and laptop products into the management fabric of overall enterprise networks. The move involved the introduction of new security, wireless, and management technology for several new IBM NetVista PCs and ThinkPad laptops.

Jon Judge, general manager of IBM's personal computing division, said more companies are looking at PCs and laptops and integral parts of their IT networks, and less as stand-alone investments.

"We believe the PC industry is at a crossroads," Judge said. "For a long time it has been a fairly predictable game, but price is no longer the driving force behind corporate PC purchases. [Cost] addresses only a piece of the total cost of managing PCs. [The real issue is] the related cost of supporting PCs and new technology that enables PCs to be seamless deployed and linked to the back-end infrastructure," he said.

To help reduce such support costs while improving PC management capabilities, IBM introduced its UltraImage technology. UltraImage allows IT administrators to deploy new or upgraded system images to fleets of PCs and laptops. Using UltraImage, IT administrators can quickly assign device drivers, applications, and other computing utilities from a common "super image," Judge said.

"[UltraImage] simplifies the management and development of PC images, and dramatically reduces the frustration of supporting large networks of personal computers," Judge said.

IBM estimates that UltraImage and its related IBM services can save companies US$100 per PC or laptop per year over the life of the individual system.

Integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless personal and local networking options are also now available from IBM on new NetVista and ThinkPad models.

A new IBM Embedded Security Subsystem is also now available to protect companies with IBM PC and laptop fleets from unauthorized intrusion over both wired and wireless networks, Judge said.

To support the new management, wireless, and security technology, Judge introduced three new NetVista desktop PCs: the M Series, the A Series, and the X Series.

M Series NetVistas offer the simplest configurations and features and range in price from $999 to $1,999. A Series systems can save companies even more money with their starting price of $699. X Series NetVistas deliver the highest performance features and start at $1,499, according to IBM.

Exact feature details were not given, but NetVista PCs are generally available with a wide feature set that includes a range of Intel Pentium 4 processors, as well and multiple memory, CD-ROM, networking, and chassis design options, depending on price category.

Four new ThinkPad notebook systems were introduced: the R Series, the A Series, the X Series, and the T Series. Available Oct. 30, the R Series offers the simplest configurations starting at $1,249. Available immediately, the A Series delivers integrated wireless options, Web navigation keys, and IBM's Embedded Security Subsystem, and starts at $2,849. The T Series offers an equally wide range of options and also starts at $2,849. The X Series delivers integrated wireless and security features in a smaller, ultra-portable chassis and starts at $2,849, according to IBM.

Judge said that IBM is in a position to gain corporate PC and laptop market share by capitalizing on the confusion created by a potential merger in the works between competitors Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp.

Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with the Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., agrees that HP and Compaq are on slippery ground.

"Over the next nine to 12 months, [HP and Compaq] are very vulnerable. They can't coordinate messages, they can't coordinate their sales forces," Enderle said.

IBM also stands to benefit from recently intensified industry awareness of security and reliability.

"Folks are concerned about security, and what IBM is offering is a more comprehensive package, and that should resonate better [with companies] than coming in and saying we have a cheaper price. They are positioning themselves not as another Dell," Enderle said.

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