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Dell shoots WebPC

Quietly kills its seven-month old baby

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Dell Computer has pulled its WebPC line just seven months after it was released onto the consumer computer market.

The Texas manufacturer launched the low cost PC, which targeted home Internet users, back in November.

The flat-panel screen and oval-shaped computer were supposed to woo the design conscious PC buyer, it even took a leaf out of the iMac book, and was made available in a variety of flavours. While its price - the basic model with 433MHz Celeron and 15in monitor cost $1,000 - targeted the computer buying novice.

Although the US launch came in time to hit the Christmas market, it was several weeks behind its rivals' entry-level models - such as Compaq's iPaq and Hewlett Packard's e-PC. And the WebPC was twice as expensive as the $499 iPaq - although equivalent to Gateway's cut-down Astro PC.

Dell hoped to gain the advantage by bundling the machines with Internet access, a printer, and dumbed-down online assistance - a button automatically connected to user to online technical support - while also having a TV-like sleep button.

But it was forced to drop the WebPC price to $799 in Spring - partly by unbundling the Internet service, and last month quietly shelved the idea.

At the time, Dell said it hoped to launch the range in the UK in the first half of 2000 - but it was never released onto the market over here. Dell has declined to release sales figures for the WebPC.

But Dell is not the only vendor to have abandoned its style-experiment PC. Compaq has also dropped its Presario 3500 - this 'retro' breadbin-design, in magnetic blue, was another PC manufacturer's attempt to cash in on the new age of shoppers that have helped to bolster sales of Apple's iMac. Compaq will now only sell this one-touch Web access model in Japan. ®

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