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HP aims new PCs at cost-conscious consumers

Later this month, Hewlett-Packard will start selling two PCs designed for people who want a model somewhere between an entry-level computer and a high-end system.

Hewlett-Packard announced its spring line of computers Monday, with two new desktops aimed at the middle of the increasingly cost-conscious consumer market.

Dubbed the 7000 series, the desktop models come in HP's newest metallic blue and silver colors and have slightly more advanced features than the company's lower-end 6000 series.

"It's for the computer user that wants something between the entry-level performance and the absolute high-end performance and expandability," said Bruce Greenwood, an HP marketing manager. "A lot of times that's beginners because they feel it's safer to buy at a step up from the entry model."

The 7000 series computers come equipped with a CD-rewritable drive and a separate CD-ROM drive, which will allow people to copy music onto CDs in a single step. "It's the first time that we've offered both drives at the $799 price," Greenwood said.

The HP Pavilion 7840, which will sell for $799, comes with an Intel Celeron 766-MHz processor, 64MB of memory, and a 30GB hard drive. The HP Pavilion 7850, with a $1,049 price tag, is powered by an Intel Pentium III 933-MHz processor, 128MB of memory, and a 40 gigabyte hard drive.

The new 7000 models will come out later this month. The company will also release other new models:

• The HP Pavilion 6830, with a $599 price tag, comes with an Intel Celeron 700-MHz processor, 64MB of SDRAM, a 20GB hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive.

• The HP Pavilion 8860 at $1,249 comes with an Advanced Micro Devices Athlon 1-GHz processor, 128MB of memory, a 60GB hard drive, a CD-RW drive and a DVD drive.

• The HP Pavilion N5200 notebook, which ranges in price from $1,199 to $2,599, comes with either an Intel Pentium III or Celeron processor, up to 256MB of memory, up to a 15-inch display, and a DVD-ROM or CD-RW drive.

Although HP remains a leader in the consumer PC market, it has faced the same trouble of declining sales as its competitors. Falling PC sales combined with a slower economy and excess inventory have created a price war, making the PC makers' financial situations more challenging.

In November, HP missed earnings estimates by 10 cents per share, and soon afterward the company announced cost-cutting measures, such as plans to eliminate some divisions and change compensation structures for managers.