NEC has big plans for new microdesktop

NEC Computer Systems Division says it’s not only releasing a new desktop, it’s creating an entirely new product category in the process.

The desktop in question is the new NEC PowerMate 2000 – and it’s the first in a new line of so-called “microdesktops” from the division of Sacramento, Calif.-based PC vendor Packard Bell NEC Inc.

The PowerMate unique feature is its small size which, at 10.5 inches (26.6 cm) wide by 7.7 inches (19.5 cm) deep by 2.0 inches (5 cm) high, is 85 per cent smaller than the top five selling desktop computers, according to NEC.

To help save even more space, the PowerMate 2000 ships with a 15-inch flat panel display, the viewing surface equivalent of a 17-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, with a 40 degree swivel range and 160 degree rotate range.

Gordon Neff, director of business development with the NEC Computer Systems Division of Packard Bell NEC Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said the focus on saving space will help NEC meet a growing demand in select niche markets. Those markets include call centres, financial service providers, public kiosks and any industry that requires close personal collaboration between businesses and customers – for example, between real estate agents and their clients.

“In all these areas space is at a premium, and this product makes a lot of sense to them,” Neff said.

And NEC didn’t have to make many performance sacrifices to attain the smaller size, Neff added. “Obviously, one is you won’t have the ability to stick in PC expansion cards, but…today we’re seeing more integration in PCs and less requirement to have expansion bays.”

Besides the size issue, Neff said another unforseen benefit has resulted – namely, less power consumption. The desktop only uses 28 watts of power, versus the 250 watts common in larger devices. Also, the flat panel display emits less radiation and reduces glare and user eyestrain, a boon to frequent computer users.

Though Neff doesn’t expect organizations to replace entire fleets of larger desktops with the PowerMate 2000, he said that, as organizations begin to see the advantages of smaller footprints, the microdesktop will become an integral part of an organization’s PC device suite.

“The customers we talk to are not going to take their PC systems and monitors and throw them away in place of this. It’s for new areas that they are developing, new purchases, essentially,” Neff said.

At least one analyst appreciates PowerMate’s smaller form factor. “This is a very practical design,” said Rob Enderle, senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. It’s especially useful for vertical applications where space is constrained, he notes.

“Trading floors are already going to flat-panel displays, for example,” Enderle said. “And health care services like flat panels because emissions can interfere with medical instruments.”

The PowerMate 2000 is currently available. It ships with two CardBus PC Card (Type-II) slots and two USB connections. Each USB port can connect up to 128 distinct devices that have USB connectivity.

PowerMate 2000 comes with 64MB of RAM, upgradeable to 256MB 100MHz SDRAM SO-DIMM; a 6.4GB S.M.A.R.T. hard drive; built-in 10/100MB Ethernet support; an Intel Celeron 433MHz processor; 24X CD-ROM; a 15-inch TFT screen; and Windows 98 or NT 4.0. The cost is less than $3,999.

NEC Computer Systems Division, part of Packard Bell NEC Canada, is at (905) 564-1122.