PC Solutions- Out Of The Box



Hewlett-Packard last week 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 e-PCs, which as of yet have no specific name, will be about as large as a paperback novel, and sport a jazzed-up, colourful design, according to Eric Cador, general manager of HP's business desktop division worldwide.

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 said, 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. 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 added.

The first products coming out of HP's e-PC initiative can be expected in the first quarter of next year.

The first corporate customers will test products in January and February, with a mass market launch following in March or April, Cador said. Technologies is releasing three wireless local area network (LAN) handheld mobile computers called the PPT 2700, the PDT 7200 and the PDT 7500 and will be displaying them at the COMDEX Exhibition in Sydney this week. The three handhelds use the Windows CE operating system and connect to the company's own Spectrum24-based RF network. The PPT 2700 scans barcodes, connects to the Internet, sends e-mail, communicates in real time over Symbol's wireless LAN, manages schedules and other personal information, is dust and water resistant and can be dropped from one metre and still work, according to the company. The PDT 7200, a handheld terminal possessing the same features as the PPT 2700, also has voice paging and touch screen control. The PDT 7500 has advanced barcode scanning, data processing and communications. Symbol claims the 7500 is fully functional in temperatures between 8 and 49 degrees and can withstand drops of 1.5 metres.

The handheld computers are designed for data collection and management in extreme environments such as parcel and post, government and military, retail and warehousing. These products are part of Symbol's Window CE range, which won a US Department of Defense contract, so Australian buyers can rest assured the devices are durable.

Stock will be available in January. Interested resellers should call Symbol on (03) 9862 7000. Local pricing is not yet available. http://www.symbol.comEricssonThe pocket-sized Ericsson Chatboard sends SMS text messages and e-mail over the Internet. Users physi-cally attach the QWERTY keyboard to one of Ericsson's new-generation phones - any model from the A1018s to the T18s. The Chatboard, which has a full alphabet and is used like a keyboard, has additional features that allow users to send sound, pictures or documents via the phone. The Chatboard and phone combination act like a miniature PC, giving users all the benefits of Internet access without the size or cost of a computer. Ericsson has set up a Chatboard Internet site and is encouraging users to register for the community. When a user creates a homepage, which can be performed from the Chatboard, the homepage then handles users' mobile messages, address book and file attachments. The Chatboard sells for $59 RRP.