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Xmas panic means PC fire sales

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IT giants are virtually giving away products in the scramble to fill American Christmas stockings.

Sony has decided to hand out wireless modems to boost interest in its Vaio notebooks. Punters buying one of the notebooks between now and July 1 are being promised a free GoAmerica modem worth $480.

In order to grab the freebie, which was being plugged today by sales hungry assistants in New York stores including Circuit City and PC Richard & Son, buyers must sign up for 24 months with GoAmerica at $59.95 per month. Alternatively they can pay $99 up front and be saddled with a shorter 12-month contract.

Meanwhile, Circuit City was also flogging Compaq Presarios for less than $300 in an attempt to move products during the pre-Christmas PC sales slump.

US shoppers can pick up a Presario with AMD Duron 700MHz, 64MB DRAM, 20GB hard drive and all other bells and whistles, plus a printer worth $99, for just $249.99. This is after all rebates (it normally costs $1,099 according to the store) and punters must sell their soul to CompuServe for three years (at $21.95 per month). Alternatively, there is a similar deal, but with 900MHz AMD Athlon and 30GB hard drive, in PC Richard for $399.91, with a contract to MSN for two years.

There is another tie-in ISP deal on Apple Mac G4s in US shops - with a 450MHz processor, 64MB DRAM, 20GB hard drive and 17-inch monitor, they are going for $1,599 after rebates (normally $2,299). Again, punters must sign up with CompuServe for three years.

A quick whiz around the New York streets today showed how little people were shopping in the run-up to Christmas. The stores were quiet, even for mid-week, according to sales representatives. One PC Richard assistant confirmed sales were "far behind" this time last year. ®

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