Dell upgrades low-cost desktops

Following the release of two low-cost notebooks earlier this week, Dell Computer has released two new low-end desktop systems, the Dimension 2200 and the SmartStep 150D.

The products were listed for sale on Dell's Web site on Thursday afternoon and represent upgrades from Dell's current least-expensive consumer PCs, the Dimension 2100 and the SmartStep 100D, said Linda Gerardi, Dimension product marketing manager for Dell. Monday, Dell unveiled two notebook computers priced below US$1,000, the SmartStep 100N and the Inspiron 2600.

"In a market that's pretty weak, companies need to find new opportunities to sell products," said Stephen Baker, director of research at NPD Techworld in Reston, Virginia. The upgrades provide products for consumers reached through Dell's recent strategy of marketing to price-conscious consumers through alternative channels, such as appearances on QVC Inc.'s television shopping channel and increased direct-mail advertising, he said.

Like the SmartStep 100N and Inspiron 2600, the SmartStep 100D and Dimension 2100 are targeted at first-time computer buyers, or current users who want a second system for their homes, Gerardi said.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell will no longer sell the Dimension 2100 or SmartStep 100D, she said. The SmartStep 100D was the first preassembled machine sold by Dell when it was introduced in late October of last year for US$599. It featured a 1GHz Celeron processor from Intel Corp., 128M bytes of SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM), and a 20G-byte hard drive. Support will still be available for the Dimension 2100 and SmartStep 100D, Gerardi said.

Dell's traditional made-to-order sales system will likely stay intact for high-end models, said Baker. "Preconfigured (computers) are a smart way to target customer niches, but they don't fit into Dell's overall manufacturing, sales, and distribution strategies," he said.

The SmartStep 150D comes with an 1.2GHz Intel Celeron processor, the fastest chip yet used by Dell in its least-expensive machines, Gerardi said. It features 128M bytes of SDRAM, a 20G-byte hard drive, one 48x CD-ROM drive and four USB (universal serial bus) ports. Users have a choice between a 10/100M bps (bit-per-second) PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Ethernet network card or a 56K bps PCI modem. They can also opt for a 15-inch or 17-inch monitor. The SmartStep 150D is priced at $599 on Dell's site and is available immediately.

The Dimension 2200 also features the Intel 1.2GHz Celeron. Several configuration options are available, utilizing up to 512M bytes of shared SDRAM, up to a 40G-byte hard drive, several options for media drives, including CD-RW (CD-rewritable) and DVD-ROM (digital versatile disc-ROM), four USB ports, and large monitors measuring up to 19 inches. It is selling on Dell's Web site for $669 and is also immediately available.

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