Hewlett-Packard (HP) on Monday announced what it is calling the "e-PC", a new category of Windows-based desktop devices designed to offer businesses a cross between a standard desktop PC and a simpler-to-use, more stylish-looking Internet device.
The first products coming out of HP's e-PC initiative can be expected in the first quarter of 2000, said Eric Cador, general manager for HP's business desktop division worldwide, based in Grenoble, France.
No specific products or prices are yet available. The first corporate customers will test products in January and February, with mass market launch following in March or April, Cador said.
The e-PCs, which as of yet have no specific name, will be about as large as a dictionary, and sport a jazzed-up, colourful design, according to Cador.
Besides the smaller size and new look, the most important difference between the e-PC and conventional desktop PCs is that it won't feature slots for cards that enable users to plug in peripherals, according to Cador. Instead, e-PCs will feature the more simple USB (universal serial bus) port, he said.
The idea is to take advantage of a company's existing PC infrastructure -- such as the cabling, network or printers already in place -- but offer business users easier use and maintenance, Cador said.
"They [e-PCs] will limit the amount of mix and matching that users can do with hardware components," Cador said. The result, he claims, will be much simpler maintenance. "It will be much easier for companies to remotely diagnose and control" such devices, Cador said.
The desktop devices will run on Windows NT, Windows 98 and the upcoming Windows 2000 operating system. HP currently has no plans to run e-PCs on any alternative operating system, Cador said.
The price of the devices will be equal to or slightly less than a PC, but the total cost of ownership will be lower, Cador said.
HP sees the e-PC as a complement to rather than a replace for the traditional business desktop PC. "There will always be customers that want full expandability," Cador said, which they can achieve better with a traditional PC.