HP to launch built-to-order gaming PC

Customers will be able to design their own gaming machines through a Web site that will go live this summer, Hewlett-Packard says.

Seeking to take advantage of the fast-growing video game market, Hewlett-Packard on Monday said it would begin to offer built-to-order custom personal computers for game enthusiasts.

HP said that its Web site allowing users to design their Compaq "X Gaming" machines would go live in June or July and offer a range of options with standard, off-the-shelf components. Retailers will also offer access to the machines through their own custom configuration kiosks.

Prices will start at around $1,599 after promotions, HP executives said, and peak at more than $3,000.

"There's definitely a role for a company like HP in this market," said Tom Markworth, a product marketing manager with HP, in an interview.

The announcement came at the start of E3, the annual video game industry trade show in Los Angeles. Computer hardware makers have placed increasing focus on E3 as a way to demonstrate the capabilities of their most powerful systems.

HP has been offering a Compaq gaming machine for a few months, mostly in a standard configuration sold on a limited basis by select retailers.

Those pilot sales, Markworth said, convinced the company that it could compete in a market where well-known specialty manufacturers like Alienware, Voodoo and Falcon Northwest face increasing competition from mainstream players like Dell.

While HP's name is not the first on the minds of gaming enthusiasts today, Markworth said the company's long history will be its advantage as it enters the market.

"Credibility is something you only earn over time," he said. "HP, with its Compaq brand, has a huge advantage in stepping in as a newer player."

The X Gaming machines will feature a standard chassis from CoolerMaster, which is known for its work in keeping system noise down while also decreasing heat, and red glowing lights in front and back that will make the unit stand out in the dark.

"We're able to use our purchasing power as the world's largest consumer PC company...to be able to procure some of these higher-end components" and pass along cost savings to customers, he said.

Pre-installed software will be kept to a minimum, so as not to clutter the machines. The company plans to provide support aggressively.

"We're going to compete hard here," Markworth said.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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