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DVD systems expanding

Without much fanfare, consumer PCs priced from $1,200 to $2,000 have increasingly been incorporating digital video disc drives.

Without much fanfare, consumer computers priced from $1,200 to $2,000 have increasingly been incorporating digital video disc drives, as leading manufacturers try to stay ahead of the coming wave of DVD software and movie titles.

Midrange systems now often include the successor to the CD-ROM drive, as PC makers continue to entice consumers with multimedia accessories such as modems, speakers, and even printers.

Because manufacturers' profits on low-cost PCs are tight, DVD drives are unlikely to appear in sub-$1,000 machines in 1998, analysts and computer makers agree. But higher-margin systems with the higher-performance chips needed to take advantage of DVD will continue to add the storage technology.

DVD-ROM discs hold 4.7GB of data, where CDs can accommodate only 650MB. DVD drives can read CD-ROM discs, meaning current titles won't become obsolete as the lower-capacity technology is phased out.

Yesterday, Gateway 2000 touted two models in its G6 series incorporating DVD drives for under $2,000.

Gateway's G6-266 comes with a 266-MHz Pentium II processor, a 15-inch monitor, and a Canon ink jet printer for $1,578. The same system with a 333-MHz Pentium II chip but a 17-inch monitor and no printer goes for $1,999.

Compaq Computer, the world's largest PC maker, offers three models that fit the bill. Its lowest-priced DVD system, the Presario 4640, comes with a 266-MHz Pentium II for $1,299. A 300-MHz DVD system lists for $1,599, while a 333-MHz version costs $1,999.

IBM offers the Aptiva E86 for $1,799. With a 300-MHz Pentium II chip, the system offers double the normal memory--64MB--and a roomy 8GB hard drive.

Hewlett-Packard doesn't offer a DVD system for under $2,000, but all of the top-tier manufacturers are going to offer DVD drives in multimedia PCs at ever-lower prices, predicted International Data Corporation analyst Kevin Hause, a consumer PC specialist.

"Especially as we move into the fall refresh [of product lines], we'll see DVD move into price points and products more on the order of under $1,500."

"There's nothing out there that's going to compel somebody to demand DVD," Hause said. "But there is an element of obsolescence. Consumers are saying, 'I don't want to be left behind a year down the road,' especially if it's only modest premium [for a DVD]."