Compaq roots itself in living room

Compaq will unveil new computers aimed at seizing the PC-TV market.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
Compaq Computer will announce dramatically revamped Presario consumer PCs in two weeks and a new line of PC-TVs later this year as the number-one computer vendor attempts to ensconce itself firmly in America's living room.

The Presarios to be rolled out July 14 in New York will include a wide range of new audio and video technologies that will further blur the line between PCs and home entertainment appliances. The models will also include high-end 3D graphics and 200-MHz Pentium processors.

"Compaq is one of the few PC companies that can make the transition to convergence products," said Bruce Stephens, an analyst at International Data Corporation, a market research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts. He noted also that Compaq is establishing strong ties with retailers, a practice more typical of a consumer electronics company than a PC manufacturer.

The new Presarios will feature:
--a videophone based on Intel's Proshare technology that will use a Universal Serial Bus camera attached to the PC monitor
--a new type of high-speed modem developed with Lucent Technologies, the former systems and technology divisions of AT&T and Bell Labs
--a "Power VR" 3D graphics chip from NEC
--special JBL speakers for 3D sound
--an Intercast card, on certain models sold at CompUSA outlets, for watching television shows that broadcast TV signals and complementary Web pages.

Compaq may also introduce a novel design that uses a flat-panel liquid crystal display screen instead of a CRT monitor.

And the company isn't stopping with upgrades of existing boxes. Compaq will debut a wholly separate line of PC-TVs later this year based on a design that it has been working on with Thompson Electronics, which manufactures RCA and GE television sets.

"This [new line] will take better advantage of Intercast [a hybrid Internet-broadcast technology developed by Intel] and maximize use of cable to the home," a Compaq spokesman said.

The consumer market offensive signals that Compaq is not standing still while Sony makes its grand entrance into the consumer PC market.

"Yes, Sony has strength in consumer electronics, but we don't know how that will translate into PCs and the convergence of PCs and consumer electronics," a Compaq spokesman said. "This is a whole new market."

Late this summer, Compaq will begin shipping Wonder Tools software and hardware peripherals for children. For example, using the software and a special "driving wheel," analogous to a joystick, children will be able to maneuver a virtual submarine under water, the company said.

Related stories:
Compaq, CNN to broadcast on PC-TV
Compaq, Intel to bring videophone home
Compaq, Thomson to make PC-TV hybrids
Compaq cuts prices on commercial PCs
Compaq PCs get "arcade" 3D
Compaq cuts prices, readies new lines
Intercast technology brings TV to your PC