"That's really the most aggressive thing I've seen," said IDC analyst Roger Kay. "That's a lean, mean price."
Other computer makers have been somewhat less aggressive on price. Gateway, for example, has moved to a, with more powerful machines starting at $799. A Gateway machine for small businesses is listed at $599 without a monitor. Dell Computer has a model featured on its site for $599 including a 17-inch monitor, a free CD burner and free shipping.
The pricing is most likely to put the squeeze on, which enjoyed strong sales growth at the end of last year, Kay said. eMachines' lowest-priced desktop model, the T2240, sells for $399 plus tax and shipping and does not include a monitor.
HP's new model appears to be the lowest-priced Windows-based machine on the market, althoughare sold at Sam's Club, the members-only branch of retail giant Wal-Mart.
HP has been more aggressive of late on price with its suppliers in an effort to drive down costs.
"I think this is probably a reflection of those type of activities," Kay said,
HP may also be banking on the fact that the new product is a configure-to-order model, meaning many customers will choose to add on other features that will boost the average selling price of the machines somewhere in the $500 range, Kay said.
But even the base model is enough for many users, he added.
"I think that's an attractive offer, it may even bring some consumers in out of season," Kay said.