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HP paints new PC picture

New Pavilion models are the first systems to offer strong support for the company's emerging digital imaging strategy.

Hewlett-Packard unveiled new Pavilion consumer PCs, its first systems to offer substantial support for the company's emerging digital imaging strategy.

The systems start at $999, without a monitor, and offer processors from AMD and Intel. They also are the first HP computers to ship with Windows 98.

Models in the higher-end Pavilion 8300 line offer a front serial port to connect digital cameras and 2MB of video memory. Additionally, they come with Microsoft's Picture It photo-editing software.

The series starts with the 8360, which incorporates a 333-MHz Pentium II processor, an 8GB hard drive, and a modem for $1,399.

The 8370 comes with a faster 350-MHz Pentium II chip plus of 8MB of video memory and a DVD drive for $1,699. The 8380 upgrades to a 400-MHz Pentium II for $2,029.

Altogether, the introduction of the midrange 8300 line marks HP's first major effort to use its increasingly popular PCs to promote its digital camera business.

"Up until now, we haven't seen much evidence of HP leveraging their PC business into the digital camera space," said Steve Hofenberg, a digital imaging analyst from Lyra Research. "They've been leveraging their printer business more so far, but this new line of PCs might signal a change in that."

"There's a natural tie-in between input and output," he said. "The printer is tied to the print-consumables business. In the case of selling PCs, you're selling the hardware. You don't sell the supplies."

HP characterized the new features as an evolution, rather than a whole new strategy. "This is an overall evolution of what we've been trying to put forth through the years," said an HP spokesman.

Still, with recent research from PC Data indicating that HP took over the No. 1 spot in retail desktop sales in May, it's surprising that the company hasn't previously used its established PC business to market emerging digital camera products, Hofenberg said. "Considering that they are one of the major PC vendors in the world, I'm surprised it's taken them this long to add features or functionality that would leverage that."

Also today, HP introduced entry-level Pavilions in its 6300 line. The 6330, which features a 300-MHz AMD K6-2 processor and a 56-kbps modem, retails for $999. The Pavilion 6350, with a 333-MHz AMD K6-2 chip, will cost $1,299.

The Pavilion 6340, which incorporates a 300-MHz version of Intel's low-cost Celeron processor, is priced at $1,099.

Pavilion customers who purchase a system with a DVD drive will receive a coupon for three free DVD rentals from NetFlix.com.