As HP expands its thin-client portfolio, its also continuing to study PC blade technology. According to Sally Stevens, director of blade server platforms for HP, the company is running trials at several customer sites, although there have been more than 100 businesses interested in trying out the technology, she said. The technology also is being used by several units within HP, Stevens said.Currently the market is being created by ClearCube Technology Inc. The Austin, Texas, company this quarter is expected to expand its product line by enabling businesses to put multiple users on a single blade. ClearCube officials said the move will make the companys PC blades available to smaller enterprises, which may not want all the performance or the cost of the current products, where each blade is dedicated to a single user. Officials said the move could improve the pricing for the PC blades, dropping it from the current $1,500 to $2,000 per seat to less than $1,000. IDC analyst Bob ODonnell said that while the goals of both thin clients and PC blades are the same, they are more complementary than competitive products, with the key differentiator being price. The question enterprises need to answer is how much theyre willing to pay to reach those goals, said ODonnell, in Mountain View, Calif. Though there arent as many offerings on the market yet, indications are that PC blades offer better performance, but at a heftier price. "Thin clients provide adequate performance, and theyre a lot cheaper," he said. "Its really [about] price. Theres always going to be a lower cost opportunity, and thin clients will be lower cost." Thin clients may also end up bolstering the PC blade market, ODonnell said. Enterprises may want to experiment with server-based computing via the cheaper thin clients, he said. "Once theyre hooked on the centralized management and security, they may [look to expand with PC blades]," he said. Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.
The company is still on track to decide by the end of the year, following the customer trials, whether to pursue the technology, but Stevens said response to the trials has been overwhelmingly positive.