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eMachines Readies PC For Children

LAS VEGAS -Value PC maker eMachines showed during Comdex a kids’ PC that combines computer functionality with an FM stereo and DVD-ROM drive and is expected to ship by mid-2001.

At an off-site hotel, the company also showed a line of notebook computers, and as a concept, a combination computer/micro stereo that eMachines is developing in partnership with Kenwood.

The not-yet-named product is about the size of a notebook computer with a 12-inch LCD, integrated keyboard, coaxial cable TV connection, USB ports, PC card slot, S-video out and Ethernet port. Other specifications for the device were not available.

Stephen Dukker, eMachines CEO, said the unit will carry a $999 suggested retail price. While the design and color scheme have not been finalized, the prototype had brightly colored keys around the edge of the display. “This is part of an ongoing process with us to push the form factor of our products,” he said.

The PC/stereo product features a receiver and speakers by Kenwood and a computer component by eMachines. Dukker said such a product would work well in the space-conscious Japanese market, but his company is still researching whether it would succeed in the United States.

After several fits and starts eMachines will begin shipping a line of notebook computers, manufactured by the company’s partner TriGem.

Last year eMachines showed a similar line of notebooks with the intent of shipping them in 2000, but Dukker said the company had not done its homework correctly and the notebooks would not have delivered the profit that was originally expected. So the decision was made to hold off on shipment.

However, there is nothing holding back the shipment this year, and models are expected to hit stores in the first quarter. A series consisting of three to five units will sell through the company’s usual retailers and online through eMachines’e-commerce site that is going hot early next year. The site is expected to sell only eMachines products, although the systems will be bundled with peripherals from other companies.

Dukker was also gearing up for the shipment of his company’s Companion Internet Appliance, which will be marketed in conjunction with Microsoft’s MSN Internet service. He would not speculate regarding the potential of this product category and said he decided to produce the Companion strictly as an experiment to test the waters. However, a separate deal with AOL to produce a similar product is also in the works, he said.

Dukker also showed off eMachines’ new models for the holiday selling season.

At $399 (after $75 mail-in rebate), the company’s new entry-level product is the eTower 600is. It features an Intel Celeron 600MHz processor, 32MB of RAM, 40x CD-ROM drive, 10GB hard drive, an Intel DirectAGP 3D graphics card and two USB ports.

The eTower 633ids steps up to a Celeron 633MHz with 64MB of RAM, 12x DVD-ROM drive and 15GB hard drive. It will carry a $549 suggested retail price, after $50 mail-in rebate.

The eTower 667ir has a slightly faster Celeron processor, CD-RW and CD-ROM drives for a $649 suggested retail price, after $50 mail-in rebate. The top-end eTower 700irx has a Celeron 700MHz processor, CD-RW, DVD and CD-ROM drives, 20GB hard drive, and a $749 suggested retail price, after $50 rebate.