HP: Why Not Just Call It “e-Vectra.com”?

  • Written By: C. McNulty
  • Published: April 11 2000


Event Summary

[PCWeek - 22 February 2000] Hewlett-Packard Co. [NYSE:HWP] today joined the industry movement toward low-cost, "legacy-free" desktop PC systems by unveiling its e-Vectra corporate desktop line, the company's first "e-PC" product designed for the workplace.

The dictionary-sized computer tower features a new look and weighs just under 8 pounds, making it about 75 percent smaller than traditional commercial desktop PCs, according to HP officials in Palo Alto, Calif. Prices for the e-Vectra start at $549.

In recent years, Intel Corp. [NASDAQ:INTC] and Microsoft Corp. [NASDAQ:MSFT] have urged manufacturers to develop more attractive computer systems free of legacy technology, touting instead a greater reliance on USB (Universal Serial Bus) technology.

By removing legacy features, such as available ISA and PCI slots, the computer giants contend desktop users and IT managers will incur fewer system failures resulting from hardware and software conflicts that can arise when peripherals are added to the slots.

HP not only removed legacy technology, including the 1.44MB floppy drive, it also placed the system in a sealed box to prevent unauthorized tinkering with the hardware. Sealed-box systems, HP said, give IT managers' greater control and assure system uniformity across sometimes far-flung corporate offices. Sealed systems also help prevent theft of peripherals, the company added.

HP's new system will compete directly with Compaq Computer Corp.'s [NYSE:CPQ] own legacy-free corporate desktop, the iPaq, which the Houston-based manufacturer unveiled in November and began shipping last month. Prices for the iPaq start at $499.

Market Impact

It may be simple, reliable, and stable. It's cheap to build and cheap to sell. And it keeps HP competitive with similar offerings from Compaq and IBM. We've seen similar initiatives before - souped-up 3270 emulators and Larry Ellison's network computers, to name two. Perhaps the third time's the charm.

Nonetheless, we dispute the a priori premise that so called "legacy-free" systems require less technical support than PCs that use 1.44MB floppy drives, ISA, PCI, and/or PS/2 ports. This change makes existing inventories of serial and PS/2 devices, (e.g., keyboards, modems, and Palm cradles) obsolete. It forces support staff to get comfortable with USB, which has yet to make the same inroads in Wintel architectures as it has in the Mac world. Furthermore, USB support requires either Windows 98 or 2000 - not NT 4.0, whose stability is far better documented than either 98 or 2000.

Finally, we believe the sealed case design has problems. What are you supposed to do if they break - throw them away? The classic Vectra may lack the millennial panache of its prefixed e-Vectra cousin, but at least you can replace a Vectra hard drive.

That said, the HP e-Vectra offers better "legacy" support, and faster processors, than Compaq's iPaq, for little additional cost - about $50.

User Recommendations

Two things need to happen before e-Vectras can be evaluated for your organization. First, Microsoft needs to release Service Pack 1 for Windows 2000. Second, your organization needs to plan and budget a transition for your legacy peripherals. Then, and only then, can you fairly consider an e-Vectra.

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