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Emachines hawks Windows XP bargain

The budget-minded PC maker is offering new desktops with Microsoft's operating system pre-loaded and with a starting price of $474 before rebate.

Emachines is offering Windows XP on the cheap, with Friday's introduction of new desktop PCs.

The budget-minded personal computer maker is offering four new desktops with Microsoft's operating system pre-loaded and with a starting price of $474 before a $75 rebate.

The company is betting that the combination of Windows XP and a low price will help persuade consumers to upgrade. Microsoft's new operating system is set to launch Oct. 25, but PC makers have been offering systems with Windows XP pre-loaded since late last month.

Also on Friday, Hewlett-Packard restated its support for the new operating system, which it's now offering on desktop and notebook PCs. The company had been rather subdued in September when others, including Compaq Computer, Dell Computer and Gateway, were trumpeting their Windows XP systems.

But PCs have been a tough sell so far this year, with purchases sliding in a slowing economy.

Typically, Emachines offers PCs at prices starting at $399, $499 and $599, after a blanket $75 rebate. The company also offers higher-priced PCs, usually starting at $699 after a smaller, $50 rebate.

Emachines' newest entry-level desktop, the T1090, combines Windows XP with hardware that includes a 900MHz Intel Celeron chip, 128MB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 20GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive for $474, or $399 after the rebate. Its previous entry-level machine sported an 800MHz Celeron for the same price.

The PC maker also introduced the T1100, which comes with a 1GHz Celeron chip and CD-RW drive for $574, or $499 after rebate.

In addition, the company introduced a pair of new Pentium 4 desktops, starting at $749 before rebates. Its T4150 offers a 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processor, 256MB of SDRAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-RW drive for $749 before a $50 rebate. The T4155 has a 60GB hard drive and a CD-RW/DVD combination drive for $849 before a $50 rebate.

The Pentium 4 PCs use Intel's 845 chipset, allowing Emachines to pair that chip with standard SDRAM. Typically, this combination allows manufacturers to shave about $100 from the price of the PC, but they must also give up some performance, analysts say.

The company's previous Pentium 4 system was a 1.3GHz based on Intel's 850 chipset and RDRAM memory, priced at $999 before a rebate.

Emachines ranks as the No. 3 retail PC seller, behind HP and Compaq. To date, the company says, it has sold 3.6 million PCs.

But the company has seen its share of turmoil. It ousted CEO Stephen Dukker last February, then cut jobs and reorganized in March. In May, it hired Credit Suisse First Boston to evaluate alternatives, including the sale of the company, but has since stopped working with CSFB on the issue.