HP Bolsters Its Thin Clients

Company considers PC blade offerings.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is pushing forward its server-based computing plans on two fronts.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company last week rolled out its two newest thin clients, the HP Compaq t5300 and t5500, which are powered by Transmeta Corp.s power-efficient Crusoe chips and run Microsoft Corp.s Windows CE .Net operating system.

HP is also evaluating trials of its PC blade technology; officials said they will make a decision on whether to launch a PC blade offering later in the year. They added that the results of the trials to this point have been positive.

Thin clients and PC blades share the same goal: to improve manageability and security of IT infrastructures by housing key components—such as applications and data—on servers and corporate networks rather than on desktop PCs. The key difference is that in the thin-client environment, multiple appliances share a server; with PC blades, each appliance has a dedicated server.

HPs new thin clients join the t5700, introduced in May, in the companys new line of t5000-series appliances. The Crusoe chips are being used across the line. The t5300 is powered by a 533MHz Crusoe chip and offers 64MB of memory and four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports. The t5500 has a Crusoe chip that runs at 733MHz and offers 128MB of memory, ATI Rage XC graphics with 8MB of dedicated video memory, four USB ports—including a serial port and a parallel port—and an optional PC slot.

On the software side, HP integrated Citrix Systems Inc.s client software for Windows CE .Net into the thin clients, enabling users to use applications running on Citrix MetaFrame Presentation servers on their appliances.

Also integrated in is deployment software from Altiris Inc., enabling customers to run the same software to deploy applications on thin clients, servers and PCs, officials said. The Altiris software also offers greater problem-resolution capabilities and is easier to use than the Rapport software from Wyse Technology Inc. that HP had been using, they said.

Both thin clients are available now. The t5300 starts at $349; the t5500 starts at $379.

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, and more than 100 businesses have expressed interest in trying out the technology.

Stevens said response to the trials has been overwhelmingly positive.

The only maker of PC blades is ClearCube Technology Inc., which is hoping to lower its pricing to less than $2,000 by enabling multiple users on a single blade.

International Data Corp. analyst Bob ODonnell said that while the goals of thin clients and PC blades are the same, the two are more complementary than competitive, 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. Although there arent as many PC blade offerings on the market yet, indications are that they offer better performance, but at a heftier price, ODonnell said.

"Thin clients provide adequate performance, and theyre a lot cheaper," ODonnell said. "Its really [about] price. ... Theres always going to be a lower-cost opportunity, and thin clients will be lower cost."