Compaq adds Evo hardware, services

Compaq Computer unveiled four new products within its Evo family of business PCs Tuesday, and announced plans for leasing the products through its Access on Demand service packages.

Compaq introduced the Evo Desktop D300v, Evo Desktop D500 series, Evo Notebook N400c and Evo Notebook N600c as the main ingredients in the desktop portion of its Computing on Demand strategy, which was announced in July and focuses on bundling services such as customer support and installation with hardware.

Computing on Demand allows businesses to purchase only the computing power they need, paying for the services and hardware they use, and insulating themselves against fluctuations in capacity by having the option to buy additional computing power if needed.

Compaq has already released Server on Demand -- per-use billing on its ProLiant servers -- and Compaq Private Storage Utility, which allows businesses to treat storage costs like a water bill: paying only for what they use, but having available as much storage as they might need. The company plans to release Capacity on Demand -- a system for accessing reserve computing power using AlphaServers and NonStop Himalaya servers -- in the next month or two, according to Mike Hockey, public relations manager for Compaq's Access Business Group.

The four new PCs are available in both standard and custom formats; the standard packages come with features such as installation and warranty, help desk assistance, technology updates of faster processors or increased memory chips, and asset reporting and program management -- where customers receive a list of installed units and the dates they were installed, allowing the customer to track the time remaining on the contract, Compaq said in a statement. IT departments will be able to customize both hardware configurations and services packages, or just select the standard package.

The Access on Demand offering is designed for medium to enterprise-sized customers, said Greg Caldwell, public relations manager for Compaq's Global Services Group. Customers will be required to sign up for a minimum of three years if they choose one of the packages, said Hockey, and can choose to extend the lease month-to-month if they are satisfied with the terms.

Corporations are looking for less cash-intensive ways of meeting their hardware needs, said Rob Enderle, a research fellow with Giga Information Group Inc. Through Compaq's program, businesses will be able to spread out the costs of the hardware over several years and departments, freeing them from the obligation to come up with significant amounts of cash in an uncertain economic climate, he said.

The entry-level Evo Desktop D300v Microtower, part of the D300 series that first appeared for sale on the Web back in August, comes configured with either Intel Corp.'s Celeron or Pentium III chips. Standard models feature 128M bytes of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 20G-byte Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, 48x CD-ROM, and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98 SE or Windows 2000 operating systems; Windows XP Professional will work with the D300v when available. The D300v is available immediately and prices start at US$499 to buy it without the services, or $99 per user/per month through the services package.

Users looking for a little more computing power can select within the Evo Desktop D500 series. These PCs come with an Intel Pentium 4 processor with speeds of up to 1.9GHz and Intel 845 chip sets. They also feature up to 128G bytes of SDRAM, a 20G-byte SMART II hard drive, CD-ROM, and the choice of several Microsoft operating systems, including the forthcoming Windows XP. Users can choose between three sizes: regular desktop, convertible mini-tower, or a smaller desktop. The D500 series is available immediately, and sells by itself for $719. The package is priced at $129 per user/per month.

Mobile users can select either an Evo Notebook N400c or an Evo Notebook N600c package. The N400c weighs 3.5 pounds (1.58 kilograms), and is less than one inch (2.54 centimeters) thick. It comes with an Intel Pentium III 850MHz processor, a 12.1-inch TFT XGA screen, a 20 G-byte hard drive, CD, DVD, or CD-RW functions, and a full size keyboard. The N600c comes with either a 866MHz or 1.066GHz Intel Pentium III-M processor, a 14-inch TFT XGA screen, and dual pointing device. The N600c is a little bigger, weighing 4.8 pounds and measuring 1.2 inches thick. Both laptops are available immediately, and are priced at $1,999. A services package with either notebook costs $169.

The Evo Notebooks also provide support for the 802.11b LAN and Bluetooth PAN (personal area network) wireless networking standard through their MultiPort modules. The modules are sold as an option to the notebooks, and connect to the back of the machines, offering users the ability to connect through either standard. The 802.11b module costs $189, and the Bluetooth one is available for $199, said Hockey. Compaq said in the statement it is developing MultiPort modules for high-speed WANs (wide area networks) for release in the first quarter of 2002.

Additionally, Compaq debuted a new 19-inch S920 CRT monitor. Compaq said it is a high-resolution color monitor with 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution. It is available immediately for $319.

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Tom Krazit

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