February 22, 1999 3:30 PM PST

HP unveils new, low-cost PCs

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Hewlett-Packard launched today new low-cost PCs for small to medium-size businesses, part of the company's strategy to broaden its reach in that market.

Hewlett-Packard unveiled new Brio PCs, designed to appeal to "growing businesses," according to the company, or smaller companies that may not be as conservative in their computer purchasing habits as large enterprises. The move comes as HP is rumored to be exploring modifying its distribution model to include more direct selling, sources say.

The Brio BA, priced from $699 to $999, is based on Intel's Celeron processor running at 366 and 400MHz. The entry-level system will include 4.3GB hard drive and 32MB of memory.

Higher-end systems will include up to 8MB of video memory, DVD-ROM drives, up to 13GB hard drives, and support for the upcoming Pentium III processor. These new Brio systems are expected to be priced close to existing Pentium II Brios, or under $1,500. "They will be very affordable," said an HP spokesman.

With the new systems, HP is also launching its Brio Center, an online support site developed in concert with Yahoo. The site, which will "assist growing businesses with every task," according to HP, will include a customized start page with stock quotes and product information and support.

As previously reported, the Brios were expected to be introduced earlier this week, but the launch was pushed back as details surrounding the Brio Center were finalized.

Sources say the company is also exploring selling computers directly to its customers, in addition to its traditional retail and reseller distribution channel. Direct sales are widely thought to be more cost-effective than traditional sales, because it is easier to manager inventory and configure systems to order.

The hardware maker is also hoping that the new industrial design of the space-saving Brios will jump-start its PC division. The new Brios come in a "micro-tower" form factor, which falls roughly between a traditional desktop and a smaller mini-tower. The Brios also feature a tool-less chassis which allows the systems to be easily upgraded and serviced.

HP's move to solidify its small business sales comes as the company faces hurdles in expanding its corporate and enterprise business. Growing large business sales is inherently slow, analysts say, because larger companies are more conservative in their purchasing decisions, and loathe to switch vendors.

 

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