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Gateway goes platinum with new PCs

The computer maker refreshes its line of business desktops, breaking from its traditional beige box design in favor of a curvy, metallic look.

Gateway refreshed its line of business desktops on Monday, adopting a new platinum design scheme introduced in April.

As earlier reported, the Poway, Calif.-based company broke from its traditional beige box design in favor of a curvy, metallic look, reminiscent of Apple Computer's Titanium PowerBook G4.

Gateway's initial redesign focused on consumer computers--three notebooks and one PC. Now, the second-largest direct PC manufacturer is revamping its line of business desktops with the new platinum scheme.

Gateway isn't alone announcing new summer PC models, some timed to take advantage of the back-to-school buying season and end-of-federal-government-fiscal-year spending rush. Hewlett-Packard unveiled new PCs last week at the TechXNY trade show. Apple is expected to introduce new computers during Macworld Expo in New York in mid-July.

Just as Gateway and HP launch new designs, some other competitors are backing away from some stylish models. IBM, for example, plans to phase out its all-in-one NetVista X PC, which is built around a flat-panel monitor. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company is killing NetVista X after only about two years on the market.

With this revamp, Gateway is sticking to more traditional desktop configurations. Though the business PCs sport a new look, none uses expensive integrated components, such as flat-panel monitors.

Gateway is introducing three new lines of business PCs: the E-2000, E-4000 and E-6000, which will replace the E-3600 and E-4650. Gateway will keep one older line, the E-1800, which has the old, beige-box design.

Prices start at $849 for E-2000 models, $799 for the E-4000 and $1,399 for the E-6000. Although Gateway has beefed up PC configurations, some prices also are increasing compared to older models. The entry-level E-1800, for example, started at $799, while the E-3600 started at $699.

The entry-level E-2000 comes with a 1.8GHz Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM (expandable to 2GB), 20GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, integrated graphics, 10/100 networking, six USB ports, 15-inch CRT monitor and Windows XP Professional. The entry-level E-4000 is similarly configured, but with a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and no monitor. The starter E-6000 PC packs a 2GHz Pentium processor, 256MB of RAM (expandable to 2GB), 40GB hard drive, CD-ROM drive, 32MB nVidia GeForce2 MX200 graphics card, six USB ports, 17-inch CRT monitor and Windows XP Professional. The E-2000 and E-4000 come in a slim-line design, while the E-6000 offers a full tower chassis.

These wouldn't be the first quiet price increases. During the past month, Gateway has nudged up the prices on some consumer computers that sport its new industrial design.

The company's high-end Solo 600XL notebook, for example, sold for $2,558 in late May. During the Memorial Day holiday, Gateway raised the price to $2,599 with the change to a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 processor from 1.7GHz. Since moving the 600XL to a 2GHz processor, Gateway has raised the price again, now to $2,899. But the company made no other changes to the high-end notebook, which also features a 15.7-inch display, 64MB ATI Radeon 7500 graphics accelerator, 40GB hard drive, CD-RW/DVD combo drive and Wi-Fi wireless networking.

PC sales crisis
The new models come as Gateway and other PC makers struggle to recover from devastatingly slow second-quarter sales. Most companies closed their quarters on Sunday.

PC sales collapsed in April, dropping 22.5 percent at retail stores, according to NPDTechworld. Computer makers saw little to no relief in May and June, prompting a wave of profit warnings--from Advanced Micro Devices, Apple and Intel, among other companies. Apple, in fact, has seen an inventory build-up of flat-panel iMacs, less than three months after battling supply shortages.

During a June meeting with financial analysts, HP President Michael Capellas warned the company had "seen slower-than-anticipated sales?in the consumer market."

PC makers and retailers have responded, in part, to slow sales by wooing customers with rebates.

Despite the sales warnings, IDC raised its PC shipments for the year, based on a stronger-than-expected first quarter. The analyst firm now expects weak year-over-year growth of between 3 percent and 4.7 percent compared with earlier, paltry projections of 1.8 percent growth. Either projection would exceed 2001, when worldwide PC shipments plummeted 5.1 percent, according to IDC.

In an unrelated industry milestone, market researcher Gartner on Sunday said manufacturers had reached the 1 billion-computers-shipped mark, since the PCs introduction in the 1970s.