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Gateway seeks last-minute shoppers

The PC maker is offering six pre-configured desktop PCs and notebooks that are guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas.

Gateway is trying to flag down holiday shoppers looking for PCs at the last minute.

Customers can order six pre-configured desktop PCs and notebooks through Friday afternoon on its Web site or Saturday afternoon via phone or in its Country retail stores. The computers are guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas or Gateway will refund shipping and handling charges.

Starting Wednesday, the company is also stocking its Country stores with limited quantities of the pre-built systems. Shoppers will be able to purchase those computers in the stores through Christmas Eve.

Poway, Calif.-based Gateway is one of the pioneers in the build-to-order PC business. But by offering already-assembled systems, Gateway can cut down the time it takes for customers to receive the PCs. This is the third holiday season in a row that Gateway has rejiggered its basic sales strategy.

"This allows us to better use the advantage of our Country stores to get at more customers at a crucial buying time," Gateway spokesman Greg Lund said Tuesday.

Dell Computer, a giant in the build-to-order PC business, began selling a pre-built computer in late October. The SmartStep 100D is meant to attract consumers who don't necessarily feel comfortable configuring their own computers, according to Dell.

Gateway's program, however, lasts only during the holiday shopping season, Lund said.

Under the program, Gateway is selling four desktops and two notebooks. All six machines come with 256MB of memory.

Desktop prices range from $1,199 for one with an Intel 1.2GHz Celeron chip and a 40GB drive to $1,499 for one with an Intel 1.8GHz Pentium 4 chip and an 80GB hard drive. The other two desktops offer 1.5GHz Pentium 4 chips. One comes with a 20GB hard drive for $1,297; the other offers a 40GB hard drive for $1,398.

One notebook for $1,599 features a 1GHz Pentium III, a 14.1-inch screen and a 10GB hard drive; the other, for $1,874, comes with a 1.06GHz Pentium III, a 15-inch screen and a 20GB hard drive.