HP launches first member of e-PC line

There seems to be an “e” everything these days, so why not an e-PC?

All the major vendors are doing it, and Hewlett-Packard Canada Ltd. is no exception, according to George Bulat, manager of PC research at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. He said it just seems to have taken a little longer for HP to get into the game.

The company recently launched the first component in its line of e-PCs. The e-Vectra, a corporate desktop computer, weighs a mere eight pounds and is designed to be capable of being mounted on a wall or even a counter.

In the past, there have been several people within companies that HP has had to satisfy for different reasons, explained Mike Oreskovic, product manager for HP Canada. The end user wanted something big and fast, and the MIS liked something extremely controllable, but the CFO didn’t want to pay for it.

“And if the CFO wanted to pay for it, there was a good chance that the MIS didn’t like it because it wasn’t controllable, and the end-user didn’t like it because it was crap,” Oreskovic said.

With the introduction of the e-Vectra, HP hopes to meet the needs of all of these groups.

“We’re giving the end user a high-performance, mainstream-performance box in a very small form factor that they can put on the shelf or leave somewhere on the desk – so we’re clearing up some space on the desk,” Oreskovic said, adding that it is controllable for the MIS, and priced right for the CFO.

IDC’s Bulat agreed that at a starting price of $899, the pricing is exceptional. He was impressed, and said it would be equally appealing for customers and businesses who have a significant number of employees.

The e-Vectra will ship with the option of either an Intel Pentium III or Celeron processor; Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, or Windows 98; 3Com Fast Etherlink 10/100BASE-TX integrated LAN solution; two PS/2 and two USB ports; up to 256MB SDRAM; a Quantum 8.4GB Ultra ATA/66 hard disk drive; on-board audio; and the option of a CD-ROM drive.

For security, the product has an external control system that sits on the back, which enables the product to be attached to a pod or a table, according to Oreskovic. Nothing can then be plugged in, as the wires are all secure, and nothing can be pulled out.

Problems can also be avoided through the use of the HP e-DiagTools, Oreskovic said.

“It’s a Web agent that sits internally on the unit,” he explained. “If the unit does not boot up, an e-mail is automatically sent to HP or the authorized service partner, telling HP and the service partner what is wrong with the PC.” When the customer calls, HP is then able to tell that user right away what the problem is.

Several guarantees are also offered to customers, including a three-year, return-to-depot warranty. The hard disk drive, the power supply and the PC chassis can all be swapped swapped in and out, Oreskovic said.

The lifetime warranty is another feature that makes the product competitive, he said.

“For the existing lifetime that they have this product we will replace the main unit accessories.”

The pricing for the lifetime warranty will appeal to customers and be a good selling point according to Bulat, but he said it is also somewhat of a moot point.

“If the product is good for a year, or two, or three years, those kinds of limitations on a warranty are fairly standard and are probably reasonable to expect,” he explained. If people are still using the e-Vectra six or seven years down the road, and HP is still honouring a warranty, that would be something exceptional, Bulat said.

All in all, the market for this type of PC is there, Bulat said.

“I think it does have and will have wide appeal in the commercial enterprise, mainly medium and large businesses as well. Not only in terms of decreasing system downtime and saving on support costs, but just in terms of the bottom line being total cost of ownership,” Bulat explained.

The price for the lifetime warranty is approximately $150. The product will begin shipping in Canada in April, 2000. For more information, see HP Canada at www.hp.com.