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RealTime IT News

IBM's PC Biz Gets Closer to Consumer

NEW YORK -- As consumers gain greater importance to the revival of the IT industry, IBM Corp. on Tuesday unleashed several new desktop models designed to follow up on its decision in May to rebrand the old NetVista line under the new ThinkCentre name -- an extension of the "Think" strategy.

The new models represent additions to all three ThinkCentre lines: the M series, S series and A series. Both the M series and S series have traditionally targeted large enterprise customers in particular but the A series has price points that hit the $399 level -- the clearest sign yet to date that Big Blue isn't ready to give up the consumer market to competing PC vendors like Dell , Hewlett-Packard and Gateway .

"What we just announced today is adding models to this to give a better breadth of offerings so our customers can pick," Stephen Miller, product marketing manager at IBM, told internetnews.com during a brief interview here at the TechXNY show. "We increased the processor ranges so the customer can go from a 2 GHz Celeron to a 3.2 GHz Pentium 4."

Only select models of the new ThinkCentre S50, M50 and A50p will feature Intel's Pentium 4-based architecture, which can capitalize on hyper-threading capabilities, the company said in a statement. New models of the ThinkCentre A30 include an Intel Pentium 4 processor running at speeds up to 3.06 GHz.

IBM's decision, while not explicit, to migrate further toward the consumer market comes at a time when that particular segment has gained greater "Street Cred" with IT vendors. While buying remains tepid among larger enterprises, the consumer market has been cited on several occassions as a major contributor to the PC market's current revival.

But several years ago Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM made the decision to abandon the consumer market -- no longer distributing its hardware through retail channels like CompUSA, BestBuy and Circuit City.

Miller acknowledges that IBM agrees the consumer is instrumental to the PC market's reversal in fortune. "And we do offer especially down at our A series," he continued. But the IBM executive was quick to characterize their target audience as "small businesses" and another group that isn't so much the consumer but are these so-called "power" computer users.

"What we're not after...we're not after the gamer...we're not after Billy and Teddy and Tommy to get their first PC," he continued.

To be sure, Miller still describes the consumer market as a "volatile" one and emphasized that IBM isn't ready to get back into retail distribution channels.

Among the features that created the greatest buzz at the TechXNY show are the ability to swap internal components like hard-drives and even system-boards without the use of any tools. This ability to "toollessly" swap internal components will help IT buyers tackle the issues of product life cycles and future roadmap.

"What we're telling the customer and telling the industry -- and the industry understands this -- is that you still have to deal with five years down the road. So let's talk about the entire PC solution for that period," Miller explained.

The new ThinkCentre S50 models are priced as low as $589; the new ThinkCentre M50 models are priced beginning at $799. Prices for the new ThinkCentre A50p models start at $749, and (as previously mentioned) at $399 for the new ThinkCentre A30 models. All new ThinkCentre systems announced today are available immediately through IBM's web site or select business partners.

Select ThinkCentre models also feature a 48x-32x-48x Max CD-RW drive, enabling customers to burn CD-RW media at a fast speed.

For DVD capabilities, IBM is also introducing the Multi-Burner Plus for desktops, one of the industry's first DVD burners to support all recording formats endorsed by the DVD Forum and DVD+RW Alliance, including reading and writing DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. The IBM Multi-Burner Plus is available today for $249.