June 17, 1999 4:45 PM PDT

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Packard Bell NEC today introduced the Z1, an integrated desktop PC and flat-panel display, part of a trend of computer companies looking to capitalize on a growing interest in industrial design.

Following in the footsteps of Apple's popular iMac, PC makers such as Packard Bell NEC and Gateway are introducing new hybrid desktop-notebook systems purporting to simplify the user experience while offering a stylish alternative to typical beige boxes.

At the same time, these more expensive new systems may slow down the seemingly unstoppable momentum of extremely cheap computers among consumers. Last week, Gateway announced it will begin selling its all-in-one desktop PC with integrated LCD in the U.S., starting at $1,999. Packard Bell NEC's Z1 will sell for $2,499.

The Z1 is made up of a 15-inch, flat-panel display that also houses the hard drive and processor. The system also features a wireless keyboard.

"In designing the Z1, we set out to challenge the traditional 'beige computer box' and encourage consumers to look beyond specifications and seek a computing experience that incorporates innovation and inspiration," said Gordon Chapple, executive vice president of Packard Bell NEC's consumer division, in a statement.

Packard Bell NEC's Z1 is also a startling contrast to the extremely inexpensive consumer PC bundles Packard Bell has become known for. It is unclear whether the move into stylish high-end computers represents an overall strategy shift for the company, which has slowed declining market share numbers with an aggressive push into the sub-$800 category.

The Z1 includes a 450-MHz Intel Pentium III processor, DVD-ROM drive, 96MB of memory, and 8.4GB hard drive.


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