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Compaq launches Net-connection assault

The No. 1 computer maker announces a series of bundling deals with high-speed Internet connection providers.

LAS VEGAS--Compaq launched a massive Internet technology strike today, hoping to recapture the cutting-edge consumer PC high ground, seized by Apple Computer's iMac earlier this year.

At Comdex, Compaq Computer today unveiled new Presario consumer PCs with high-speed Internet connection technology and unfurled a series of relationships with the who's who of the high-speed Internet service world. Providers include: Road Runner/MediaOne Express, @Home Network, Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, BellSouth, Hughes Network Systems/DirecPC, GTE, SBC Communications, Sprint, and UUNET.

Compaq is targeting all of the major high-speed connection schemes: digital subscriber line (DSL), cable, and satellite. DSL uses standard phone lines, while cable taps into TV cable lines. Generally, cable is considered the fastest, followed by DSL and satellite, though there are exceptions depending upon the technology used and the provider.

The upshot is that these services offer connection speeds many times that of a standard dial-up modem, which is considered a major Internet connection bottleneck.

Compaq's CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer introduced the strategy at today's Comdex keynote speech.

Compaq is dubbing this program to offer all three technologies "Triple Play," and touting this as "Compaq's vision of enabling the networked digital home through high-speed access to the Internet," according to Rod Schrock, Senior Vice President and Group General Manager, Consumer Products Group.

@Home Network offers cable service, while companies such as Bell Atlantic and BellSouth offer DSL. Hughes Network Systems/DirecPC provides satellite connections.

Compaq executives noted, however, that these services will not be available in all locations in the U.S. So, for example, until the service is offered, a user can use a Compaq DSL modem as a standard dial-up modem, then when the service becomes available switch over to a high-speed DSL connection.

The new Presario lines support these high-speed connections via networking hardware and DSL modems, which are available with the 5100c. The Presario 5100c series features a 400MHz Advanced Micro Devices K6-2 processor and new DSL modems. Prices start at $1,599.

The system also includes an 8GB hard drive, DVD drive, and 128MB of memory, in addition to the DSL modem.

In addition, the Houston-based PC maker will offer the 5600 series with a top-of-the-line Intel 450-MHz Pentium II chip, with systems starting at $2,793, including and a high-resolution digital flat-panel monitor priced at $899.

The new high-speed Internet-ready consumer PCs will be available nationwide, starting Monday, from more than 6,000 kiosks Compaq has installed at major retail chains that allow customers to order PCs built to individual specifications.

Compaq says its DSL modem can achieve a connection speed of 1.5 megabits per second, about 25 times faster than current dial-up versions. "Compaq worked with Lucent Technologies to develop the Compaq 1.5Mb Max Digital modem, which adheres to the new G.Lite (DSL) standard," the company said.

Reuters contributed to this report.