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RealTime IT News

HP Says Green's the Way to Go

HP has a message for Sun Microsystems: Welcome to the green club. Where have you been?

Sun made a big show earlier this month of playing up the environmental advantages of its recently introduced UltraSparc T1 with CoolThreads processor, formerly known as Niagara.

Calling the UltraSparc T1 the first "eco-responsible microprocessor," Sun is touting the chip's eight-core, thirty-two thread architecture which uses far less power than competing processors and needs less cooling as it creates less heat than a common light bulb. The first Sun Fire servers based on UltraSparc T1 aren't due out until the end of this year.

"I don't want to name names, but yes, it does tick me off when, let's say, a competitor puts out one product and calls themselves 'green,' said David Lear HP's vice-president for corporate, social and environmental responsibility (CSER). "You dig into it and find out it's not going to be available worldwide, it's not lead free and it will ship in small quantities."

Sun did name other products and initiatives in its eco-computing push, but UltraSparc T1 was the centerpiece of the campaign.

HP, the computer, print and services giant, has long earned a reputation for quality products, but it generally doesn't hype them as much as some of its competitors. Lear said the environmental emphasis has simply proven to be a good business practice for HP, though he admits there are areas they probably should have promoted it more to customers.

"If HP invented sushi they would have called it 'cold, dead fish,' " said Amy Wohl, an analyst and founder of tech consultancy Wohl & Associates. "They don't get PR as an art. It's always been more of an engineering culture."

On Monday, HP will announce details of its annual report of recycling efforts. Among the highlights: HP plans to announce it has recycled approximately 140 million pounds of hardware and HP print cartridges globally, an increase of over 17 percent from the prior year. HP also is expected to say it collected more than 2.5 million units (over 50 million pounds) of hardware to be refurbished for resale or donated.

HP has a goal to recycle 1 billion cumulative pounds of its products by the end of 2007.

The company also aggressively "upcycles," the practice of using recycled materials in new products. Lear said recycled materials made their way into some 350,000 of HP's Scanjets last year. But he said such moves are just good business practice.

Lear recalled that in 1998, HP developed what may have been the first lead free PDA , a version of its iPAQ. "But we didn't make a splash about it because we wanted to make sure it was real."

It worked fine. But HP determined the costs of changing materials, retooling and the impact on its manufacturing partners for the lead free iPAQ were too much to bring the product to market.

But that early experimentation is starting to pay off. Amid environmental legislation in Europe and other efforts worldwide to get the lead out of computers, HP is gearing up to ship lead-free PDAs and computers in the next year. "We want to meet government standards and also set the bar ourselves where we can," said Lear.

"Some of the NGOs have been pushing for lead free products for some time and I didn't think it was possible, but they really had a crystal ball. It's just amazing how far we've come in being able to do that," he added.

"The Nordic countries tend to be more concerned with emissions, in Japan it's about energy and in Germany what materials you use, so there are different issues. When we didn't get the business, they let us know why and we try and learn from that."