Hewlett-Packard is displaying a concept PC at the Comdex industry trade show designed to meet the needs of office workers of the future.
Code-named Agora, the PC combines integrated collaborative software tools with an innovative hardware design that moves the computer box off the desk while keeping user-accessed components like optical drives within easy reach.
Agora (Greek for "meeting place") features a range of collaborative tools for workers within the same company and outside--for example, suppliers or subcontractors. It includes videoconferencing, whiteboarding, voice communications, and real-time file sharing, but for now, the tools are cobbled together from various vendors. However, HP says it is working with Microsoft Corp. to try and get the tools built into a future version of Windows so they all work together. Integration is crucial to the product's success, says Eric Croswhite, manager of desktop product marketing.
The hardware is minimalist. It includes a flat-panel monitor supported by a base that holds speakers and an optical drive, and features a cordless mouse and keyboard to keep the desktop clean.
Croswhite says the typical PC has seven cables coming from it: VGA, USB, keyboard, mouse, power, and various others. The Agora shown here had only two cables reaching to the component on the desktop, one of which was a USB 2.0 cable connecting to a box designed to go under the desk or even in a nearby closet. The benefit is that the hidden box can hold hard drives and expansion cards that a typical all-in-one PC can't.
Potential collaborators interested in Agora will have to make do with existing solutions for at least another year, though: The product won't ship until 2004.