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Microworkz sets date for $299 PC shipments

Responding to the crush of interest in its offer for a $299 computer, the Seattle-based PC maker says it is taking orders but won't ship until April 19.

    Responding to the crush of interest in its offer for a $299 computer, Microworkz said today it has started to take orders online, but won't start shipping units until April 19, "subject to supply and demand."

    Microworkz last week struggled to cope with getting information to consumers about their offer for a $299 PC that comes with a year of free Internet access.

    In response to queries, the company today said it is accepting orders placed online, and that all customers will receive letters regarding when their order might ship. Microworkz noted that it expects to ship the preordered PCs within the first month of production. Customers won't be able to order by phone until April 19th. And, at that time those orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

    News of the low priced PCs comes as a new survey shows that sub-$600 PCs-a market segment that didn't exist two years ago--now constitute almost 20 percent of the retail market for computers.

    Last week, Seattle-based Microworkz's s Web site became overwhelmed by traffic, and phone lines were jammed, too, causing potential customers and several analysts to speculate whether the company could deliver on its promises. (See related story.)

    The company said today it is attempting to better prepare itself for demand, having added new Web servers that can handle up to 10 million individual visitors to its Web site per day. Also, the company claims it has more than doubled its phone capacity, but notes that it "is not prepared to answer questions about [the PC] until after April 19."

    Rick Latman, President and CEO of Microworkz stated in a previous interview that, "On April 19th, about 100,000 computers will be ready to ship."

    The relatively small manufacturer has caught the attention of consumers by offering a full featured PC, the Webzter Jr., with Windows 98, a Cyrix microprocessor, a 56K modem, and a year's worth of free Internet access from Earthlink for $299.

    The low price is made possible through subsidies from its strategic, unidentified partners. "We have significant financial participation from our partners. No, they don't write us checks, but our advantage is we get components within the price parameters that allow us to sell a $299 PC. We will be announcing the system at the Cyrix booth at Spring Comdex as well as our own booth," he said.

    The company's ambitious plans, however, have raised skepticism among observers. "Anyone can announce that they can make a $299 PC, but are they going to be able to produce 200,000 a month?" said Stephen Baker, PC analyst at PC Data.