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IBM brings flat panel to Aptiva

IBM begins bundling a 14.1-inch LCD monitor with one of its Aptiva consumer PC models.

In an effort to grab the computer buyer looking for something beyond a run-of-the-mill sub-$1,000 PC, IBM has begun to bundle a 14.1-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor with one of its Aptiva consumer PC models.

The $2,599 bundle is apparently IBM's attempt to achieve style within a budget. "Flat panel" monitors, based around the same technology found in notebook computer screens, are a fraction of the thickness of standard CRT monitors and consume much less power.

The 14.1-inch flat-panel active-matrix LCD monitor from IBM also comes with a larger viewing area than would be seen on a 14- or 15-inch standard PC monitor, said Jim Bartlett, vice president for Aptiva marketing at IBM. Currently, CRT screens don't offer as much viewable real estate as LCDs offer.

At the same time, IBM is launching its flat panel effort with its most expensive computer from its budget line. The E series is IBM's cost-conscious line of Aptivas and mostly features less-expensive processors from Advanced Micro Devices. The E84 comes with a 300-MHz K6 from AMD, 64MB of memory, and a 4GB hard drive.

Last year, IBM deployed a strategy of targeting the luxury crowd of PC buyers. By midyear, IBM was losing market share to Compaq and others who were selling sub-$1,000 boxes.

During the third quarter, IBM expanded the relatively quiet E series to catch up. The series is now the dominant part of the Aptiva product line, Bartlett noted.

"We kind of swung the pendulum to hit fighting price points," he said. "And now we're coming back and re-entering with some exciting products to fill out the product line above that."

The E84 will come with Windows 95 and include a free upgrade coupon for Windows 98, Bartlett said. IBM will offer its Aptiva computers with Windows 95 through June, but then switch to selling them with Windows 98. Contingency plans have been developed in case Windows 98 is delayed, he said, without providing details on what these plans might involve.

Flat panel monitors will likely be bundled with more Apitva models in the future, he added.

While consumers can expect to see more design innovations with the line, IBM will not likely participate in the PC-TV convergence arena--at least not anytime soon. The company has no plans to develop PC-TV products and will not likely enter the set-top box market in the near term. Not only does customer demand remain low, but the technological need to incorporate PC technology into the TV experience, or vice-versa, has so far failed to materialize.

"It's a pretty expensive way to watch TV," Bartlett said. "The jury is out on how many people are going to use their PC to view their TV."