HP’s footnote becomes a Dell ‘gotcha’

In January, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced that it would reduce the energy consumption of its volume desktop and notebook families by 25% by 2010. But there was this footnote on its press release: this reduction was relative to 2005.

Dell Inc., said this week that it would cut energy consumption of its desktop and laptops by 25% by 2010 on systems offered today.

Dell made a point of tweaking HP about this in its news release. When I asked HP for its response they weren't interested in playing vendor pong and just provided a general comment about their global goals. But I'll bet that there will be little difference in energy consumption, in an apple-to-apple comparison, of laptops and PCs by either Dell or HP by 2010.

But what this little marketing war illustrates is that PCs are getting the same kind of energy savings focus that servers have been receiving. Energy use is very apparent in a hot-spot swamped data center, but not among thousands of PCs spread out across an office complex.

Indeed, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency began a campaign this year to try to convince businesses to at least turn on power management features on desktops. What the EPA was saying, nicely, is that facility and IT managers that don’t care about this issue are an environmental hazard.

But technology can make a big difference. Albert Esser, vice president of power and infrastructure solutions at Dell, illustrated the point this way:

A Dell desktop OptiPlex GX 620, with CRT monitor, (2005 model), running at maximum performance of about seven hours a day uses about 966 kWh annually. At an electric cost of 10 cents per kWh that works out to $96.10 annually.

The OptiPlex 755, which is now available and meets Energy Star 4 standard set last year by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, the annual operating burden, with flat screen monitor, goes down to 210 kWh annually with an energy cost of $21 annually using the same scenario, said Esser. Dell says its target is to reduce that current usage by 25%.

Industry wide, the vendors are all turning to efficient power supplies, certified 80-Plus, meaning that they are 80% energy efficient. But Dell says it is also has specific and continuing R&D efforts aimed at energy reduction around its low-flow fan technology, intelligent power management, circuit designs and disk drives.

The vendors know they have to make energy efficiency a paramount issue because they don’t want to get caught like U.S. automakers, with dealer lots filled with SUVs that are now too expensive to drive. So let them beat themselves up over footnotes, as long as they all deliver what’s needed.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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