IBM starts up new line of PCs

Taking its longtime NetVista desktop line a step further, IBM Corp. announced this evening a string of redesigned PCs that carry security and graphics software.

The new ThinkCentre PC, which begins its tenure with the S50, M50 and A50p models, comes installed with IBM ThinkVantage software. That preloaded package, which users normally must download from the Web onto NetVista machines, includes the Embedded Security Subsystem, which lets users lock sensitive files; ImageUltra, a graphical image management system; and Rapid Restore Ultra, a one-button backup process that no longer requires a user to shut down the PC.

But changes don't lie only inside the hard drive. An external cradle for the ThinkCentre hard drive has a handle with which users can pop out the piece whenever necessary. Even the machine's steel cover is easily lifted to show color-coded components, from the memory to the motherboard, all of which can be plucked out by hand.

"You depress two buttons on each side of the machine and the cover literally opens up like a car hood," said Rob Herman, program director of ThinkCentre worldwide product marketing at IBM. Inside, he said, with the cabling pushed to the side, "you can remove the components without using a tool."

Like its predecessor in NetVista's S-line of desktop PCs, the ThinkCentre S50 has a smaller chassis, measuring 12.2 inches wide by 14.1 inches deep and 3.3 inches high. Its starting price is $729 for a machine with a Celeron 2.0 GHz processor, 128M of RAM and a 40G hard drive, ranging up to a $1,449 machine with a Pentium 4 3.0 GHz processor and 512M of RAM.

The M50, which supports Red Hat and SuSE Linux, starts at $979. That base model includes a Pentium 4 2.4 GHz processor, 256M of RAM and a 40G hard drive. The more expensive model, at $1,349, houses the same Pentium processor scalable to 3.06 GHz and 512M of RAM.

And the multimedia A50p starts at $699 for the same specifications as the low-end M50, except that its memory is limited to 128M. But this product scales up to a Pentium 4 3.0 GHz processor, 256M of RAM and an 80G hard drive, costing up to $1,489.

Another desktop PC model, the ThinkCentre A30, specifically targets government agencies with its low $469 starting price and will be released by mid-June.

The ThinkCentre launch stems from a marketing approach dubbed ThinkStrategy to make IBM notebooks, desktop PCs and software more productive and cost-effective.

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