PC to stay, Pfeiffer says

Though the future will see the proliferation of many small-scale Internet access devices, the PC will remain the most important way to get online, Eckhard Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Compaq, has said at an industry conference in Paris.

Speaking to a crowd of about 3000 French business and consumer computer enthusiasts at the first-annual Forum de l'Information et de la Haute Technologie (Information and High Technology Forum), Pfeiffer said he isn't worried the PC will become less popular. Though smart phones, handheld computers, set-top boxes and other Internet access devices will soon allow a large percentage of people to connect to the Internet easily and cheaply, Pfeiffer predicted that PCs will remain the most popular way to get online.

"The truth is, people want full-function PCs," Pfeiffer said. "It (the PC) will remain the dominant Internet access device."

Pfeiffer applauded the fact that simpler, less expensive machines will allow more people to experience the Internet, but said the devices will exist alongside PCs, not replace them. The idea is that people will have many ways to get on the Internet, most likely connected through a home network. One house could have a screen phone, two PCs, a digital set-top box and an Internet-enabled palm computing device, for example.

In fact, two-PC homes will become very common in the US, but also increasingly in Europe, where consumers are rapidly catching the Internet wave, he said.

The CEO also pointed to his competitors attempts at launching the network computer (NC), saying that not all new devices end up catching on, let alone seriously threatening the PC concept.

Two years ago everyone was talking about how the NC would replace the PC, Pfeiffer said. "If you look around now for an NC, good luck, but you won't find any," he said.

For its own part, Compaq plans to ship all of its computers in the near future with Internet-ready capabilities, Pfeiffer said. Currently, the company is shipping some of its Presario models with a built-in ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) modem, and will also ship models with satellite and cable modems as well in the coming year.

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Kristi Essick

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