Dell Computer has launched a low cost desktop PC, which is intended to make it easier for consumers to access the Internet.
The offering is the first to come out of Dell's Web Products Group, although other products such as wireless communication devices are expected to follow. The Group is headed by John Medica, who turned Dell's notebook business around earlier this decade.
Anthony Bonadero, Dell's director of product marketing, said: "We're looking at everything from Internet appliances to new iterations of the Webpc. Where Dell has been a conservative 'first follower', we will be a leader in these new areas."
The Webpc is a standard PC, although its stack is about one third the size of most machines, measuring six inches wide, 10.7 inches high and 10.1 inches deep. It comes in a range of colours, has colour coded cables and a keyboard with hot buttons for quick access to email, Internet search engines and preferred websites.
An esupport button launches a self-diagnostic program and can also link users to Dell's online support service. But the Webpc can also go into a 'sleep mode' which, Dell claims, eliminates booting-up time because users can push another button to make it instantly 'wake up'.
The machine also contains five plug and play USB ports to connect multiple scanners, digital cameras, MP3 players, printers and other peripheral devices.
Although Dell has historically built its PC to match customer specifications, the Webpc will come in just three configurations. The base model, which costs $999, is based on a 433MHz Intel Celeron processor, comes with 64Mb of Ram, a 4.3Gb hard drive, a CD-Rom player, 15-inch monitor, keyboard, printer, Microsoft's Work Suite 2000 software and one year of free Internet access.
For $100 more, consumers can buy a machine with a 466MHz processor, while the top-end model, which costs $1499, has a Pentium PIII 500MHz processor, 128Mbits of Ram, a 13Gb hard drive, and a DVD player. This model can also be upgraded to include a 14-inch flatpanel monitor for an additional $850.
Dell's Bonadero added that if buyers wanted more memory, they had to add it themselves. He did not see this as a problem, however, because users attracted to this type of machine are generally more concerned with functionality than technical specifications.
And at least one analyst believed that Dell has come up with a winner. Van Baker, a PC analyst for Dataquest, said that the Webpc should appeal to consumers who prefer to have simplified buying options and easy to use features. "It's a nice product. I think it will have appeal," he said.
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