Dell refreshes Optiplex line, offers Atom-based thin client

By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service |  Hardware, Dell, managed services

Dell planned to refresh its line of Optiplex desktops on Tuesday with 10 new models, including a thin-client computer based on Intel's Atom processor. The company will also expand the availability of its Flexible Computing and Managed Desktop services, now available in the U.S., to customers in other markets.

Dell's latest products arrive at a difficult time, with markets roiled by fears of a global recession and companies cutting back on expenses in the face of expected weaker demand. Dell isn't immune. The company warned last month that end-user demand had softened in the U.S., as well as in parts of Europe and Asia. But Dell said its latest products can help companies cut their IT costs -- provided companies are willing to invest capital in new computers.

"These machines do consume less power than what's out there in the infrastructure today. With depreciation cycles of four or five years, those aging desktop machines out there are costing customers more money," said Jeff Clarke, senior vice president of Dell's Business Product Group, in a phone interview.

The updated Optiplex range and the broader availability of Dell's Flexible Computing and Managed Desktop services reflects Dell's desire to offer its customers more than just hardware.

"It's a signal of where Dell is going, this notion of hardware, software and services integrated together to bring a solution to the market place," Clarke said.

The Atom-based Optiplex FX160 thin client is priced starting from US$399 and was designed to complement Dell services, like its On-Demand Desktop Streaming offering for customers.

The FX160 gives customers another option when deciding how they want to run their systems, Clarke said, adding that Dell has long sold third-party thin clients to its customers. "We really believe in flexibility and not coming in and saying that the only way to do it is have a virtual client, or the only way to do it is a thin client," he said.

The Atom's capabilities are well suited to a thin client, where the horsepower of Intel's mainstream processors aren't necessary. "The types of applications that are being deployed in call centers and point-of-sale locations are very single, or in some cases dual, application-based and the Atom processor has sufficient horsepower to do one or two applications in parallel," Clarke said.

Introduced in June, Atom has been a runaway success and Intel has worked hard to keep pace with fast-growing demand, leading some computer makers to grumble about product shortages. But Dell won't face that problem. "I won't have a supply issue," he said.

Besides the FX160, other models in the new desktop lineup include the Optiplex 960, 760 and 360. These systems will be available in a range of form factors and are priced starting from $863, $593 and $476, respectively.

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