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COMPUTING

From...
PC World

Can you afford a $50 PC?

March 17, 1999
Web posted at: 7:45 p.m. EST (0045 GMT)

by Mike Hogan

(IDG) -- PC prices took another giant step toward zero Monday with the announcement of a new hardware/Internet access bundle that takes the effective price of the computer to $50 for the first year of ownership.

Seattle-based Microworkz Computers says that by mid-April it will begin selling over the Internet the Webzter Jr., a full-featured Windows PC whose $299 list price includes one year of all-you-can-eat Internet access worth $240.

Powered by a Cyrix 300 MII processor, Webzter Jr. includes 32MB of memory, a 3.2GB hard drive, 2MB of onboard video memory, a V.90 voice fax-modem, a 16-bit 3D sound processor, Corel WordPerfect Suite 8, and the usual complement of ports and accessories. The year of unlimited Internet access comes from national service provider EarthLink.

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Like so many low-priced PCs, Webzter Jr.'s price does not include a monitor. A 15-inch color monitor is available from Microworkz for another $129.

Webzter Jr. is actually the entry point for a family of three Internet specials. The other two PCs in the line are the Cyrix 366 MII-based Webzter selling for $499, and the AMD K6-2-400 Webzter Sr., which sells for $699.

These models each include similar upgrades in other components. All Webzter PCs are backed by a one-year hardware warranty.

PCs for the rest of U.S.

Microworkz President Rick Latman said the line is intended as a low-cost solution for families needing a second or third PC, as well as an easy entry point for the half of (mostly low-income) American homes not yet logged onto the Internet.

Latman credits the company's Internet-only direct distribution model in large part for its ability to offer PCs at these prices, and said that the company can make money on Webzter.

"We are not trying to use Webzter Jr. as a loss leader," said Latman. "We are geared up to sell a half-million by Christmas."

The company has been distributing a $399 zPC that Latman says will now be sold as a network client.

Selling like hotcakes

The sales of low-priced PCs to first-time users surged over the holidays with the introduction of several inexpensive models, including the $399 eTower -- configured similarly to the Webzter Jr. -- from eMachines. The Irvine, California-based company reported selling 160,000 eTowers in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

In mid-February, FreePC.com's Web site was deluged with visitors when the company announced that it would be distributing a hardware/Internet access bundle for free to users willing to look at ads constantly and to let their Web viewing habits be monitored.

Latman said that Microworkz expects its own sales of low-cost PCs to triple the size of the company by year-end. Webzter PCs will be assembled in the United States at Microworkz manufacturing facilities in the Seattle area.

The Webzter product line will be available starting March 18 on the Webzter Web site, or by calling 888/538-5791.


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RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
Free PCs, but not a free lunch
(PC World Online)
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(Computerworld)
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RELATED SITES:
Microworkz Computers
eMachines, Inc.
Free-PC.com
Earthlink Network, Inc.
Webzter Corp.

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