Originally created 12/01/99

Dell focuses on novice users with simple Webpc



ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Dell Computer Corp. unveiled a new line of personal computers Tuesday that forgo fancy features and focus on easy, quick Internet access for the novice.

Dell's Webpc steers away from the nation's No. 1 personal computer maker's formula of bringing power and speed to business clients, instead demystifying computer use by offering the bare minimum in a stylish package to consumers and small-business customers.

"Society is increasingly reliant on the Internet, and we are becoming intolerant of any barriers to easy Web access," said CEO Michael Dell. "Every design aspect of Webpc is intended to bring ease and simplicity to Internet users."

The system, which has three models ranging from $999 to $2,349, features updated ports for connecting keyboards and other items, and is designed with "cyber-psyched customers" in mind.

Each system comes with a monitor, printer, technical support and one-year with Dell's Internet service. It can be plugged in and Internet ready in three steps, said Web Products Group general manager John Medica.

The compact Webpc is stripped of features that added costs and complexity to traditional personal computers. The main unit is 6 inches wide, less than 11 inches high and about 10 inches deep. It weighs 10 pounds.

Dell is joining fellow computer makers in offering PCs that tout simplicity and a streamlined price tag.

Compaq Computers will offer the iPaq and iPaq Legacy-Free early next year for $499 without a monitor. Advanced Micro Device's EasyNow will hit stores later this month with a price tag of $500 to $1,000.

Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, said Webpc could be the tip of the iceberg for Dell in the individual consumer market.

"They are trying to broaden their market, " Kumar said. "This particular product family essentially will allow them to do that."

The announcement came three weeks after Dell posted a 42 percent third quarter gain in operating profit, crediting a growing presence in the market for consumer and small-business customers.

"If Dell executes in the consumer and small business market alone this could add an addition $10 billion in revenue over the next several years," Dell said. The company had $18.2 billion in revenue in the year ending January.