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Gateway shows off all-in-one design

New computer designs from Gateway and others in Japan may point to the shape of things to come for PCs here.

New all-in-one computer designs from Gateway and others in Japan may point to the shape of things to come for PCs here.

Gateway is now selling a computer in Japan which packs all the computer's electronics, including a DVD-ROM drive and 4GB hard drive, into the back of a liquid crystal display (LCD).

The company will update this on Monday with new features and come out later in June with a business model targeted as a "network computer," according to a report in Japan's Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, a major industrial daily. Matsushita Electric Industrial has also been showing a similar model in Japan that will come out in June.

In addition, IBM is also studying a design that would marry a thin LCD with a notebook-sized desktop, or possibly something akin to the Gateway model, for the U.S. market, according to John McAdaragh, vice president of worldwide marketing at IBM's Aptiva consumer group, in a recent interview with CNET

These space-efficient designs are driven by necessity in Japan but are also highly practical for any user because the elegant, sleek contours of these PCs are now more affordable. "This seems like a practical design [for desktops] in two years. I see no reason why this can't happen in the U.S. market," said Eric Haruki, a display analyst at ARS.

Moreover, bulky CRT monitors and clunky desktops may become relics of the PC's past as people opt for lighter computers and as more of the desktop computer's tasks are done on the "backend" server computers which drive the Internet.

Gateway, in its current system, also integrates into the 15-inch LCD a high-speed graphics chip from ATI Technologies, a 400-MHz Advanced Micro Devices K6-2 processor, a networking chip, a modem, and a chip for playing back DVD video. The LCD uses active-matrix technology.

This whole system sells for about 250,000 yen, which is less than $2,500. This is not an unreasonable price considering that a 15-inch active-matrix LCD monitor by itself today has an average selling price of about $1,150, according to Haruki.

Other designs in Japan and the U.S which strive to pack more into a smaller space include a business computer offered by IBM Japan and a new Vaio consumer system from Sony in the U.S.

Like the Sony Vaio, the IBM PC 300 PL Slim marries a slim desktop with an LCD monitor and uses a Pentium III processor.

Monorail was one of the first to sell integrated LCD designs at retail but these never sold well. One of the problems was that the LCDs were typically small, low-quality, dim passive-matrix screens and, despite using an LCD, were relatively bulky.