October 21, 2003 9:00 PM PDT

Dell moves into family room with LCD TV

Dell will head deeper into the market for consumer electronics next week when it releases its first liquid-crystal display TV.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company on Oct. 28 will begin selling the WT1700, a 17-inch LCD screen TV, in the United States and Canada for $699, according to a representative. Gateway sells a similar TV for $699, as well as TVs with larger and smaller screens.

Dell is also expected to come out later this month with a portable music player containing a small hard drive similar to the drive inside the Apple iPod, according to sources.

"We're expanding our lineup, even as our PC business is profitable in every segment," CEO Michael Dell said earlier this month.

North American PC makers are rapidly trying to increase their presence in the consumer electronics market to capitalize on a growing taste for gadgets. Earlier this year Hewlett-Packard released a number of new digital cameras and consumer printers. Gateway, meanwhile, has come out with TVs, home networking equipment and a portable music player, among other products.

Consumer electronics devices, these companies assert, are largely based on the same technology as PCs and often depend on the PC to store data or manage files. As a result, PC makers should be able to use their established brand names, technological know-how and manufacturing abilities to get into a market long dominated by Asian consumer electronics companies.

LCD TVs are one of the fastest growing segments in consumer electronics. Worldwide shipments of LCD TVs hit 734,000 in the first quarter, up 223 percent from the first quarter of last year, according to market research firm DisplaySearch.

However, North American PC companies seem to try to get into this market every three years and have often stumbled. In 1997, Compaq and Gateway tried to sell big-screen TVs, but withdrew their products after slow sales.

In 2000, Intel, Compaq, Gateway and others sketched out strategies to sell music players, home networking equipment and other devices to capitalize on the convergence of computing and consumer entertainment.

Most of the products that emerged from these various plans, including a home music player from Dell, were canceled a year later.

 

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