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Gateway upgrades low-cost notebook

The Solo 1450, which starts at $999, marks the PC maker's latest effort to use low prices to try to gain share in the PC market.

Gateway updated its lowest-priced notebook Monday as part of a continuing effort to use lower prices to gain share in the PC market.

The company's new Solo 1450, starting at $999, offers a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron processor with 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 14-inch screen and a DVD-ROM. A CD-rewritable drive is a $20 upgrade over the DVD. That notebook replaces the Solo 1400SE, which had a 900MHz Celeron chip and 256MB of RAM and which sold for $999 after Gateway dropped the price $100 in January.

The Solo 1450 notebook offers a faster chip and a better optical drive than comparable systems from competitors such as Dell Computer and Toshiba, but it also uses a lower-cost, lower-energy nickel metal hydride battery.

The machine accords with Gateway's strategy for 2002 of cutting prices and, where appropriate, offering better hardware than competitors do. It's a strategy designed to help the company win back customers and boost market share--at the expense of profitability--after a less-than-spectacular performance in the fourth quarter of 2001.

Dell, for example, recently introduced new notebooks--the $949 SmartStep 100N and the $999 Inspiron 2600--both based on a 1.06GHz Celeron chip, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a CD-ROM. However, Dell is offering a free upgrade to a DVD or CD-RW drive on the Inspiron 2600 through April 30.

Though it was designed as a low-priced machine, several aspects of the Solo 1450 can be upgraded. Gateway will allow buyers to step up to a 1.2GHz Pentium III, add 802.11b wireless capabilities, upgrade to a 15-inch display, add up to 512MB of RAM and select a combination DVD/CD-RW drive.

A fully loaded Solo 1450 will cost about $1,800, according to Gateway's Web site.