International Business Machines (IBM) this week introduced a new line of personal "next-stage" PCs, Internet access devices and thin clients that it will market under the name NetVista. The NetVista products feature ThinkPad-like black exteriors and high-resolution flat panel displays, support for broadband Internet access, and a selection of legacy-free options. IBM has engineered the products to be easy-to-setup and use, and the company is launching the line with a $100 million ad campaign.

"IBM changes the rules when it invests in a technology category," says IBM Personal Systems Group VP Dave Thomas. "We did it before with ThinkPad and most recently with our Netfinity line of servers. NetVista devices are easier to use, slimmer, and will give our customers faster access to the Internet, enhanced connectivity and deadbolt security."

The NetVista product line sports a number of devices, including an all-in-one PC, a legacy-free PC, an Internet appliance, and a zero-footprint thin client. The NetVista All-In-One PC--code-named "Luxor"--measures only 16x16x10 inches--75% smaller than a typical PC--while offering leading-edge performance and design, which permits the unit to be mounted on a wall or clamped to the edge of a desk. The NetVista Legacy-Free PC is designed to compete with similar offerings from Compaq and Gateway, and it sports seven USB ports for expandability. IBM's NetVista Internet Appliance ("iCruiser") provides users with broadband Internet access in a small package that can be easily branded by ISPs; it will be sold through IBM partners only. And the NetVista Zero Footprint Thin Client (yes, that's the name) offers a small footprint while separating the system unit from the flat panel display so that either may be serviced separately if needed. This unit is designed for airlines check-in areas, retail stores, and other areas where space is limited.

While IBM seems to be embracing a variety of devices with the NetVista, the company is committed to serving its traditional PC, server and ThinkPad customers with new systems for some time to come. NetVista gives IBM a toehold in a number of important niches, in case the market for non-PC devices takes off. NetVista products will become available over the second quarter