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New slim solutions from HP

While Apple was using January to introduce its ultra-slim MacBook Air computer, HP rolled out a different kind of skinny computing with the introduction of three thin clients, the computer desktop choice with no moving parts. The only thing that moves are the bytes to connect to a company-wide server.

6720t HP 3000 customers are choosing Windows as a replacement environment when they migrate away from the 3000, and some of these migrating firms are pursuing a drastic reduction in capital costs. HP says that thin clients can offer up to 25 percent savings over desktops' capital costs and up to 80 percent in maintenance savings.

What's most interesting is that these new thin clients will not ship from HP bearing Windows Vista. Microsoft's Windows XPe is loaded onto solid-state wonders like the HP Compaq 6720t Mobile Thin Client. This is a thin client meant to be used like a laptop, but with all of its data hosted on a server instead of a local drive, HP says.

Mobilethinlaptop The newest model, one of the first three HP rolled out since it bought thin client specialist Neoware last year, looks pretty much like a laptop. What's of interest in this $725 solution is what has been excised from the traditional client concept. Weight. Storage (just a 1GB flash drive stores data locally). Oh, and power. If you choose HP's slimmest desktop (above), expect the energy consumption to go from 80 watts to 16. Even the mobile thin client laptop only draws 65 watts when it's plugged in for charging.

You can excise more than just the bloat of Vista in this thin client solution, too. Microsoft doesn't even have to be on the system, although the XP's e does stand for embedded. A new thin client from HP doesn't have to put you in bed with Microsoft at all.

The non-Microsoft option is the Debian distro of Linux on the configuration menu. Choosing Linux might make plucking off the shelf applications more difficult. But Linux on a thin client is a choice that will keep a customer from being bound to both hardware (HP/Intel) and OS supplier (Microsoft) at once.

You know, the old HP 3000 business model. Single-source computing has been elegant and efficient, but captivity has its costs once the vendor changes business plans.

Selling a computer with not much on the desk has always been one of HP's computing dreams. Before laptops ruled the desktop, HP wanted little more than an intelligent terminal on your company desks, talking to the 3000 in the IT department, with nothing except keys moving in the solution. Customers wanted their full-featured clients then, but that was a world without the online options of today.

But the workforce still sees value in those desktops and notebooks. HP would like companies to choose to make incremental deployments as they look to replace older PCs. Or not so old HP 3000s attached to those older PCs.

EWeek ran an article that quoted Tad Bodeman of HP's Thin Client Business Unit, saying younger workers won't even miss the laptop their dad or mom used to carry back and forth from the office.

"The kids that are coming out of college today have grown up on-line," said Bodeman. "They are coming out of universities and they don't want to have [Microsoft] Outlook because IT went through this process of updating the PC environment. They just want to come in and go to a Web-based application and do what they have to do to be productive. So there is a very cultural transition that is taking place…We will increasingly see the PC become an on-line experience."