Compaq's home networked Internet PCs

Personal computer maker Compaq introduces the first home networked broadband Internet PCs, furthering its vision of the digitally networked home.

Compaq extended its push into the home today, announcing a new home networking initiative and a host of new consumer desktop and notebook computers.

Compaq today announced that its new Presario 5600 series Internet PCs will come with an optional home phone line network adapter, which will connect home PCs through traditional copper phone lines.

The new Presario 5600 PC will act as the server on a client-server network, according to a Compaq spokesperson. Users can then connect any existing PC with a PCI card slot to the network, according to Compaq.

"About 6 months ago, we unveiled our plan for the digitally networked home," said a Compaq spokesperson. "The strategy makes perfect sense-- the primary reason people are buying PCs is for the Internet."

Compaq has long been interested in bringing networked PCs into the home in a high-speed environment. Today, the majority of consumers purchase home PCs for access to the Web, thus Internet-related software and hardware has quickly become the preferred method of differentiation for PC makers.

"PC manufacturers realize that the bottleneck of the consumer system is communications--not the CPU, or storage--so anything they can do to open up that bottleneck will help drive demand for PCs," said Kevin Hause, a consumer analyst with market research firm IDC, predicting that direct vendors Gateway and Dell will follow Compaq's lead with home networking initiatives of their own. "For the moment, Compaq is taking a leadership role."

The 5600 line includes the Presario 5670, which comes with a 1.5MB digital modem, a ADSL and cable modem-ready Ethernet Port, starting at $2,299. Compaq began offering high-speed access options like ADSL and cable modems as part of its 'Triple Play' promotion last November.

High-speed access is an important component of the home networking push, according to analysts, because it offers enough bandwidth to share among several computers. Additionally, high-speed services generally cost around $40 per month, compared to traditional ISPs which charge around $20 per month, which provides a motivation for consumers looking to get the most for their money.

"High-speed access is one of the key drivers for home networking," said Hause. "Once you have a DSL or cable modem connection, you want to share that across the PCs in your home."

Additionally, home networking allows households to make use of older existing PCs, Hause added. "New PC buyers retain their older PCs." In fact, a recent study by The Yankee Group found that 30 percent of all U.S. households that already own PCs are interested in home networking.

The Presarios will also come pre-loaded with a Home Network Setup Wizard that will automate the process of adding PCs to the home network. Compaq's Internet PCs will also come with WinGate Home 3.0 Internet Sharing Software from Deerfield, which filters and monitors Internet sites for parental control.

"PCs are already intimidating--the idea of networking them is especially intimidating, especially when you see people at work with a full-time job of keeping up a network, and they can't even do it all the time," Hause explained. "This makes it really straightforward."

In addition to the new Presario desktop PCs, Compaq also announced today a new slim notebook. The 5-pound Presario 1900 series notebook features a detachable wedge which includes a DVD drive, and will include 64MB of memory and up to 10GB hard drive.

The Presario 1900 series will be available at the end of the month, and is expected to feature the newest mobile Pentium II processor from Intel.