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Putting the power in the PowerDesk

or, computers don't have to be ugly...

These days there are all kinds of furniture product for you to put your computer on, or in.  Every pine store now has a range of desks and cabinets - some OK, some outstandingly grim - that do the job.  But good quality design is hard to come by. 

And if you've found something that looks OK, once you put your PC on top any sense of coherent design usually flies out the window.  For a start, most PCs are plain ugly.  And for seconds, you've probably also got an array of kit (box, big fat monitor, printer, scanner) and an unfathomable spaghetti of wires joining them all together.  But does it have to be so?

Intelligent furniture

Style on the outside, technology on the inside.  This is the motto of PowerDesk, a company producing "intelligent furniture" for the office and the home office.

David Gilbert, Managing Director of PowerDesk International, almost literally stumbled across the idea when setting up computers in the office of his furniture company in the mid-nineties. "I fell off the back of a desk trying to sort out the wires at the back", he told Flexibility, at the 2003 Flexible Working Solutions Conference. "And being a cabinet maker, I knew all about the wasted space at the back of desks, behind the drawers.  So I thought, 'Why not put the computer inside the desk?'"  And so the PowerDesk concept was born.

Instead of having a separate PC tower, the idea was that everything would be built into the structure of the desk, saving room and avoiding the need for lots of external cabling. Thus was born the first integrated desk computer.  David had the advantage of being both a manufacturer of quality furniture and a computer enthusiast doing his own software development, enabling him to invent an "interdisciplinary" product. 

There are a variety of styles available - the Classic range (see below), including Georgian and Regency designs, and modern styles (as illustrated in the home office example,  left).  All have a simple elegance, and aim to provide the use with an uncluttered workspace with a flat monitor, concealed hardware and a keyboard that slides away when not in use.

The PCs can also be upgrade - and perhaps this is easier to do than with a normal PC.  The surface of the desk can be unlocked and swings open, like an old-fashioned school desk, allowing access to the innards - no fumbling around with screws here.

The desks are also customisable - from minor modifications to the standard models at the customer's request, to completely bespoke solutions. Examples of such bespoke solutions provided to clients include reception desks with integrated PCs, and a boardroom desk including a dozen built-in computers.

Who's buying them?

The desks are becoming particularly popular with hotels, and with large organisations in both the public and private sector, from banks on the one hand to libraries on the other.

Clients include Hilton, DeVere Marriot and Mandarin Oriental hotels.

The home office market is also growing - and for corporate flexible workers may prove to be ideal, offering both security and physical protection.

Prices start from about 3k - which is a bit more than you'd pay if you buy something on special offer from PC World and stick it on a flat-pack desk from MFI.  But given that you'd be paying upward of 2k for a decent quality desk, the pricing seems appropriate if you prefer to go a little upmarket.

At Flexibility we think this is a concept with legs, as they say.  With more people working from home and for longer, a good home office environment is important.  And as well as the hotels and financial institutions, we can see applications for building in computing to the design of modernised public institutions, such as law courts and council chambers.  And wouldn't our legislators be more efficient and look more professional if they worked at desks like these, rather than waving around those tatty bits of paper as they slump on those anti-ergonomic leather benches?

In the quest for ever greater computing power, design is something that is often viewed very narrowly - simple variations on a very "boxy" theme.

Here we profile the innovative approach of PowerDesk and the products, who claim to "offer the stylish solution to modern living, by harnessing the cabinet-maker's art with state-of-the-art technology".


Further info

For further information contact PowerDesk UK at:
St Julians
TN15 0RX
Tel: +44 (0)207 101 1639 or









The innards of the computer are neatly tucked away, but accessible for maintenance and upgrade