LAS VEGAS, NEV.–The PC is far from dead — at least that’s what Compaq Corp. and its cronies are saying.

At a Comdex Fall press briefing in Las Vegas, Nev. on Monday, the Houston-based PC manufacturer, along with Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., said tough times in the PC industry necessitate innovation and the introduction of products customers want. Compaq said this was the logic and motivation behind its newest line of desktop PCs for businesses, the D500 Ultra-slim desktop.

“If the computer industry doesn’t identify and quickly lead in emerging trends and development, the PC will definitely begin its extinction,” said Jeri Callaway, vice-president and general manager for Compaq’s access business group.

“We’ve been listening to our customers and we know that the PC must be stable but also must be very flexible to grow with computing and IT needs,” she added. “Customers want more control over their IT environments with a PC that can really be customized for individual needs.”

Compaq has been paying attention to ergonomic needs as well as issues related to saving power and heat and keeping noise levels down, said Callaway.

According to the firm, the D500 desktop weighs just over 11 pounds and is 75 percent smaller than the average desktop PC. It is 2.72-inches thick and measures just over one foot square.

“(The D500’s) really small form factor takes up no more desktop space than your standard 17-inch monitor,” she said, adding that it can be configured either horizontally for the desktop, or as a tower.

“The slim design also puts the monitor at a very comfortable eye level for the user — again a very key focus on the ergonomics. It’s also 50 per cent quieter than previous generation desktops, lowering the noise level for today’s more open office environments.”

It’s been a tough year for the computer industry, said Mike Splinter, senior vice-president and general manager of the Technology and Manufacturing Group at Intel, but added there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“Investment and innovation is about developing products that people want,” he said. “And the way we get out of computer doldrums is by coming out with products that people use and want and can see the differentiation in.”

The evolution of microprocessor, form the 386 to the Pentium, is one of the things that has driven the launch of smaller PCs such as the D500, said Splinter. “This machine has the Pentium 4 processor in it and not just one that we’re making today but the one we’re introducing with our .13 micron technology, which gives it better performance characteristics and substantially more power characteristics.”

When they buy machines, IT managers want to keep them running for at least a year to keep maintenance costs and total cost of ownership as low as possible, said Callaway. She said the Evo D500 offers a 12-month lifecycle as well as the ability to share a common software image across other D500 series form factors with the same chipset. A consistent, stable platform means the desktop can be integrated at the customer’s own pace without having to qualify and test the image each time a new unit is purchased, she added.

The D500 features MultiBay, which allows hot swapping between a floppy disk, CD-ROM, CD-RW or DVD. It is also designed to accept evolving storage mediums, Callaway said.

Wireless connectivity is also available through the company’s MultiPort technology, a modular wireless solution offering wireless connectivity through an integrated plug-and-play USB port integral to the module’s location on the slim edge of the desktop. The solution enables users to connect to multiple wireless standards by changing the wireless module, according to Compaq.

Since MultiPort is based on industry-standard USB technology, it allows for development of future MultiPort modules and provides customers a means to migrate to future wireless standards as they become available, Callaway added.

Shawn Sanford, Microsoft’s group product manager for Windows client, said the built-in wireless capabilities of the D500 are an indication of not only what computers can do today, but the kinds of doors technology can open tomorrow.

“What we see at Microsoft is a PC that’s more of a communications-centric device,” he said. “That’s something we look forward to — making it a central point in that communication environment.”

Sanford added that products like the D500 are indicative of the industry’s rebirth. “The old things are starting to go away; the old possibilities are starting to open up,” he said. “We’re not just opening (new doors) — we’re just kicking those doors down, we’re removing walls. The possibilities that are going to be unfolding coming forward are limitless to people.

“The things that we do today and what we do tomorrow, we’re just scratching the surface of those possibilities. So the industry is not going away — the industry is just getting stronger.”

The Evo D500 will be available in early 2002, but Callaway said pricing has not yet been determined.

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