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IBM Touts Lower Support Costs In New Desktops

It's touting the Rapid Restore Ultra capability, which lets users recover from software problems more quickly without help-desk assistance
With the introduction of three new ThinkCentre desktop PCs, IBM is looking beyond the normal incremental improvements in speed and style to get users to make purchasing decisions based upon lower support costs.

The A50p, M50, and S50 PCs, introduced Wednesday, include the latest Pentium 4 processors with hyperthreading technology, which makes it easier to run multiple apps on the desktop on the same time. But IBM is also promoting its Rapid Restore Ultra capability that lets users more quickly recover from software problems without the need to necessarily call for help-desk support.

This isn't the first time IBM has offered Rapid Restore, which it licenses from Xpoint Technologies Inc. But this time around, packaging Rapid Restore capabilities with the ThinkCentre launch could help people pay attention to the technology's benefits, says Roger Kay, IDC's VP of client computing. "These are dry principles and not great for marketing, but they're important," he says.

IBM isn't the only company touting PC recovery technology this week. Phoenix Technologies Ltd. on Monday introduced FirstWare Recover Pro, which lets PC and laptop users restore their desktop images without the need for a boot disk or recovery CD. FirstWare Recover Pro takes a snapshot of the apps and data loaded onto a PC and places a backup copy in what Phoenix calls a "host protected area" of the hard drive. The app then tracks and stores updates to the PC's image. Although Phoenix doesn't have any large international PC makers using its technology, the company says Chinese PC maker Founder Computer Systems Co. will incorporate Firstware Recover Pro into its newest line of PCs and laptops.

The adoption of Intel's hyper-threading technology could help pave the way for new desktop computing paradigms, Kay says. While it's common for users to have multiple applications open on their desktop at the same time, this practice tends to hurt a PC's performance. If hyperthreading can improve performance significantly, companies will be able to start thinking about running more programs in the background on their users' PCs. These could include encryption programs that improve data security or multimedia apps that allow for Web conferencing without hogging system resources.

The ThinkCentre A50p is priced starting at $699 for a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 processor with 128 Mbytes of memory and a 40-Gbyte hard drive. The M50 starts at $979 for a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 processor with 256 Mbytes of memory and a 40-Mbyte hard drive. The S50 starts at $1,449 for a 3.0-GHz Pentium 4 processor with 512 Mbytes of memory, a 40-Gbyte hard drive, and a DVD player.