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NEC launches environmentally friendly PC

NEC Solutions has launched the PowerMate eco, a fanless, ecologically sensitive desktop PC.

Some of the environmentally friendly computing features include the absence of boron in the CRT monitor and a motherboard made of lead-free solder, which allows for easier recycling of PCs.

NEC Solutions also claims the eco's plastic casing is 100% recyclable. It is made from a material called NuCycle, a polycarbonate resin mixed with flame-retardant silicone, company officials said.

The company started shipping the new PCs yesterday (5 August) through direct online sales and major resellers. A standard configuration will cost $1,599 (£1,037) for a 900MHz Transmeta. Crusoe Processor, a 15 inch. LCD display, 256MBytes of memory, a 20GByte hard drive, CD-ROM and either Microsoft Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Professional.

NEC officials are betting that corporations and other buyers will be interested in an environmentally friendly computer at that price. "It will be desirable for the health care market and financial trading rooms and calls centers or government agencies which are remarkably space-sensitive and often face mandates for recycling of old PCs," Larry Miller, vice-president of NEC Solutions in North America, said.

The eco unit uses about a third of the power and generates about a third of the heat of a conventional desktop. Because it does not use a fan, the machine is quiet and does not blow dirty air into the environment, a potential problem for hospitals.

But one analyst said the price would put off buyers. "It is too expensive," said Brian Gammage, an analyst at Dataquest, part of Gartner. He pointed out that at $1,600 the price tag is more than double the $700 (£454) cost for a Dell Computer. Dimension 4500S running an Intel Pentium 4 processor.

Getting users to think of green computing instead of processor speed and hard disk capacity will be a "major challenge" for NEC, Gammage added.

But Miller said corporations could soon face laws that require them to pay for the recycling of desktops and monitors that would be an incentive to consider the eco. One bill before US Congress calls for a new Environmental Protection Agency program to mandate computer recycling, funded by a $10 fee on retail sales of desktops, laptops and monitors. California, New York and Massachusetts already have CRT recycling fees in place.

NEC is involved in the Green Purchasing Network in Japan, a nongovernmental organisation made up of 2,700 members devoted to promoting green purchasing. The eco system was recently launched in Japan under the name of NEC Mate.

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