December 2, 1996 10:00 AM ET
IBM refurbishing corporate PC lines
Desktops PC 300, 700 sport modularity, manageability, brand-new look
By Lisa DiCarlo

  IBM is revamping its PC 300 and PC 700 corporate desktops with new levels of manageability and service, ease of use, and aesthetics.

Taking a more modular approach, new versions of the two desktop lines due next year will use pop-out motherboards and easily accessible and removable components, giving IT managers more flexibility for service and upgrades, said sources close to IBM Personal Computer Co., in Somers, N.Y.

The systems, which will run Intel Corp.'s Pentium Pro and forthcoming P55C and Klamath processors, will be the first to use instrumented motherboards that use Desktop Management Interface to monitor the status of critical system components such as CPU, voltage regulators and fans. The internal components also will be easier to access, sources said, because the chassis lid will feature a single-screw removal process, sources said.

As a result of IBM's recently announced Advanced Manageability Alliance with Intel, the revamped PCs will be the first to be manageable via an integrated LANDesk and NetFinity package, sources said.

Users will be able to execute IBM's Wake-on-LAN remote power-on software and LAN Client Control configuration software from Intel's LANDesk Client Manager and Configuration Manager software, they said.

The changes could keep customers such as Dave Finley, frustrated by the support headaches associated with PCs, from migrating to network computers.

"We run ragged trying to support the [IBM] PCs because of cost and limited upgrade choices," said Finley, manager of infrastructure and planning at Manitoba Public Insurance Co., in Winnipeg, who is considering moving 1,200 users to NCs. "But if [IBM] can do anything to simplify it, it would be a big benefit."

A new chassis design, similar to the company's forthcoming Professional Workstation, will surface on the PC 300 line in the first half of 1997 and then on the PC 700 later in the year, sources said.

However, unlike the black Professional Workstation, which is due in the first quarter, the new desktops will be "pearl white," the sources said.

Later next year, IBM will release a split-design PC 300 similar to that of the consumer-oriented Aptiva S, sources said. In this design, often-used features such as power button, floppy and CD-ROM drives reside in a slim desktop module that fits underneath the monitor. The rest of the components, including CPU and hard drive, are in a minitower chassis that can fit under a desk or be stored as far away as another room.

IBM also will offer as an option a cordless mouse and keyboard that operate via infrared, sources said.

The more staid PC 700 line will be redesigned the same way as the PC 300 in late 1997, although IBM will not introduce a 700 with split-chassis design, sources said.

The 700 line traditionally does not feature the latest speeds and feeds from Intel, but instead includes IBM-designed motherboards with limited growth potential.

The forthcoming redesign should also give system integrators more configuration choices, observers said. "They will be cheaper to build, and the [reseller] channel will be able to do more 11th-hour integration, so there's more choice for users," said John Navas, principal with The Navas Group, in Dublin, Calif.

The designs are meant to bring uniformity to IBM's PC line while allowing the company to reduce the number of stock keeping units by sharing components between the models, including the Professional Workstation, sources said.

IBM officials declined comment.

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