IBM is experimenting with a mobile PC 'core' that you can carry around and plug into different holders, creating a handheld computer, desktop PC or notebook computer, the company said yesterday.

Codenamed MetaPad the box has a hard drive, RAM, processor, 3D graphics chip and a connector — other PC components become accessories.

The 255g device is 12.7cm long, 7.6cm wide and around 2cm thick, IBM said in a statement.

The MetaPad would enable users to always carry their data with them and remove the need for synchronising between devices.

The box could power a desktop PC when placed on a cradle, a handheld computer when slid into a holder that has a small LCD (liquid crystal display) and a notebook when placed in a slot in a notebook shell. Swapping can be done without rebooting, IBM said.

IBM's research division will present a MetaPad prototype at a conference in the US next week. The model will run Microsoft's Windows XP on a power-efficient 800MHz processor with 128MB of RAM and a 10GB hard disk, the company said.

IBM has no plans to take the MetaPad into production, but said it may license the MetaPad technologies to other vendors.

The company sees MetaPad as a "radical experiment" in form factor, which allows it to test its software, middleware and other technologies for pervasive computing.