Custom system builders are pinning their hopes on Microsoft's latest Windows operating system and a new Intel motherboards form factor to find success in the all-in-one PC market.
All-in-one PCs are PCs in which the monitor, motherboard, processor, memory, and storage are all built into a single chassis. They have been around for years, mainly for specialized purposes as kiosks.
However, a new crop of all-in-one PCs is starting to come to market featuring new form factor motherboards, new large touch screen displays, and Microsoft's Windows 7 Pro operating system.
Several vendors, including major vendors such as Sony, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard, and Acer, as well as Portland, Ore.-based custom system builder CTL, showed new large-screen all-in-one PCs at this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Los Angeles.
Joe Toste, vice president of marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based system builder, said the key enabler for the latest round of all-in-one PCs is the fact that Windows 7 Pro is touch-enabled.
"It works," Toste said. "It allows great user scenarios. That means huge opportunities for us."
Microsoft is demonstrating its vision of where the IT market is going by saying it wants apps to run on all devices regardless of the size of the glass screen, Toste said. "I have customers who run apps on 10-inch glass, and want to run those apps on 22-inch glass," he said. "For ISVs, Microsoft is saving a lot of development time."
Erik Stromquist, COO at CTL, said the other key to success in the all-in-one PC business is the new thin mini-ITX form factor motherboard design from Intel, which Intel and other suppliers are using to produce motherboards small enough to fit inside the tiny cases associated with all-in-one PCs yet flexible enough to work with processors from the Atom to the i7.
The thin mini-ITX motherboards are the same size as mini-ITX models, but only about half as thick, making them more suitable for use in all-in-one PCs, according to Intel.
The motherboards give all-in-one PC builders the option to choose which processor to use, or to ship without the processor, Stromquist said. While some thin mini-ITX motherboards cannot be serviced or upgraded once installed, models from Intel do allow such upgrades, he said.
CTL's all-in-one PC is built into a 22-inch screen with choice of touch and non-touch models. Solution providers can purchase them fully configured from CTL with a choice of processor, memory, hard drive, and optical drive, or can add their own, Stromquist said.
The PC portion can be accessed for upgrades and configuration by placing the device screen-down, removing a single screw, and then removing the cover, he said.
The CTL all-in-one PC, which provides solution providers and customers the option of putting their own corporate logo on the bezel, will shortly come to market. Stromquist said that a model with the Intel i5 processor and touch-screen capability will list for about $899, while a non-touch version will probably list for about $599. He said CTL plans to offer an Atom processor-based model this Fall that will start out at about $399.
John Samborski, vice president of Ace Computers, an Arlington Heights, Ill.-based custom system solution provider, said all-in-one PCs have sold fairly well in the past, but were difficult to implement and ended up being more of a specialized products.
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