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Tech Industry

IBM challenges Dell

Big Blue announces the 300PL desktop PC, partly built-to-order and priced to compete against direct vendors.

    IBM (IBM) has announced an addition to its line of desktop PCs for the corporate market that will be priced to compete more aggressively against direct vendors such as Dell.

    IBM says the new PC 300PL has been specially designed so that the PC can be built using a variation of the build-to-order sales model known as "channel assembly." As a part of its Authorized Assembler Program, IBM ships partly built computers to distributors or resellers, which then add the processor and specific components based on customer orders.

    The PC 300PL has a motherboard and case design which makes customized assembly easier. The motherboard, which is the main circuit board in a PC and contains all the computer's core electronics, slides out of a socket without requiring cables or cards to be removed first. The system has a cover which quickly unsnaps, and the hard disk drive and optional CD-ROM drive are in a "cage" that can be flipped out of the way of other components.

    The channel assembly practice theoretically results in lower-priced computers because IBM saves money on parts inventory.

    IBM and vendors such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard that distribute products through resellers and systems integrators have been tinkering with manufacturing and sales models to try to keep pace with direct vendors like Dell, who can price systems lower by selling directly to customers.

    IBM says the new systems will feature Pentium MMX processors in 166-, 200-, and 233-MHz versions and prices ranging from $1,500 to $2,600, depending on configuration. The systems will be available with 2.5GB or 4.2GB hard disk drives and up to 32MB of memory standard.

    The systems also include support for a variety of PC management technologies through the LAN Client Control Manager and a built-in 10/100 ethernet network card that allows the PCs to be upgraded and managed over a network from one central location. Central management saves money since technicians don't have to visit every affected PC when conducting upgrades.

    According to IBM, the systems have new identification features which can help owners track down property if the systems are stolen. The information can also be used to help system administrators keep better inventory of the PCs they have.