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Office Depot to offer $99 PC with $99 shipping

Even with hefty shipping cost, post-rebate price is relatively low. And deal doesn't require subscription to Internet service.

The bargain season for back-to-school shopping begins next week, but read the fine print.

Office Depot will sell a Hewlett-Packard desktop PC complete with a CRT monitor and printer for $99. The bundle, which typically sells for $429, involves a $100 in-store instant rebate and four mail-in coupons.

The offer is good from Sept. 3 through 9.

Still, you have to have the machine shipped, and shipping comes to $99.

On the flip side, consumers don't need to sign up for new Internet service as part of the deal. Other companies and stores have offered $99 computers before, but these deals often required consumers to buy a year's worth of AOL dial-up service or open an account with some other Internet service provider.

Do customers come out for these deals? Yes. In December 2005, CompUSA offered a $149 Toshiba laptop and a $99 Compaq desktop after discounts. The retailer sold 7,500 of the notebooks in two hours, or 2.5 notebooks a minute. (To get these deals, consumers had to subscribe to AOL for a year.)

September is one of the key months for PC manufacturers and retailers. The third quarter is typically the second-biggest sales season of the year because of back-to-school buying, and a significant portion of the PCs bought in the third quarter are sold during its last two weeks. As a result, companies begin to pour on the offers as the month rolls on. As a side note, some pinpoint the end of the dot-com era to September 2000, when PC and semiconductor makers surprised analysts with dire warnings about sales.

The Office Depot computer comes with a Celeron D 352 chip, an 80GB hard drive and 256MB of memory.