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HP unveils back-to-school PC bundle

The PC giant pulls together a Compaq Presario desktop, a 17-inch CRT monitor and an inkjet printer for just under $500, after mail-in rebates.

Coming off the holiday weekend, Hewlett-Packard is already in a back-to-school frame of mind.

On Monday, the PC giant unveiled a new desktop bundle designed to present buyers with a basic PC for a low price. The bundle includes a Compaq Presario desktop, a 17-inch CRT monitor and an HP inkjet printer for just under $500, after mail-in rebates.

HP, which recently launched a $349 desktop for consumers, is offering a number of aggressively priced PCs as a way of bolstering its market share and combating rival Dell Computer.

Dell and HP have grappled for the top spot in worldwide PC unit shipments over the past several quarters. In an effort to match Dell's appeal to the cost-conscious consumer, HP has brought its prices down since merging with Compaq Computer last year. HP shipped more units during the fourth quarter of 2002, but Dell took back the shipment lead in the first quarter of 2003. Preliminary results on PC shipments from the second quarter are due later this month.

HP still faces competition, despite the low price on the bundle. This week, for example, retailer Best Buy is advertising an eMachines desktop bundle for $449 after a series of mail-in rebates. But HP's bundle still rates as an aggressive offer when combined with free shipping. HP will ship the bundle at no charge through July 29, the company said.

The HP bundle includes a Compaq Presario S4000V desktop fitted with a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, a set of speakers and a floppy drive. (Lower-priced PCs often exclude speakers and a floppy drive in order to offer a lower price.) It can be ordered directly from HP via the company's Web site, the telephone or a network of kiosks at retail stores around the United States, the company said in a statement.

The Presario S4000V sells for $449 before rebates. HP adds the 17-inch Compaq CV7500 monitor, priced at $129 before rebates, to the bundle. The color HP Deskjet 3420, which costs $69 before rebates, is incorporated as well. The price of the PC bundle before rebates adds up to $647. However, each of the three components carries a $50 mail-in rebate, bringing the bundle's price down to $497.

HP's bundle comes in at $110 below the best-priced bundle on Dell's Web site. However, Dell typically includes several special offers, ranging from free component upgrades to rebates and free shipping, on each PC it sells.

Dell's best price for a desktop, monitor and printer bundle adds up to $738. Its Dimension 2350 desktop sells for $649 when configured to match the HP Presario 4000V. Dell's lowest-priced printer, the A920 inkjet, sells for $89, according to its Web site.

Dell's current special offers allow buyers to upgrade to a 15-inch flat-panel display from the 17-inch CRT and to 256MB of RAM from 128MB, at no charge.

HP is offering mail-in rebates for as much as $150 on most of its Compaq Presario models through October, according to HP's site.