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Compaq adds DVD to PC-TV

The announcement joins other releases this week that expand upon the PC-TV concept.

Using the same chip as a rival Gateway 2000 product, Compaq has upgraded its PC Theatre PC-TV to include a DVD-ROM drive.

The announcement joins other releases this week that expand upon the PC-TV concept and seems to spell out a trend for increasing convergence of technologies.

Technological convergence--the catch phrase to describe how consumer electronics is fusing with computing technology in a single device--is rapidly shaping up as one of the major trends in the PC industry and will likely be one of the chief topics of discussion at Comdex next week.

Compaq's PC Theatre 9100 comes with an accelerator built around the first generation Mpact chip designed by Chromatic Research. It serves as a DVD video accelerator, according to Patrick Griffin, manager of market development, U.S. consumer group, at Compaq.

Otherwise, the system is identical to the current PC Theatre 9000. The system includes a 200-MHz Pentium MMX processor, 40MB of memory, a 3.8GB hard drive, 16-bit stereo sound, and a 36-inch, 166-pound digitally enhanced monitor from RCA .

The 9100 will retail at $5,299. Originally priced at $4,999, the PC Theatre 9000 now retails for $3,999, Griffin said, but will be phased out over time.

Despite the rise in price, the costs of these types of systems will likely begin to fall over time, he added.

Although sales for the product have met internal expectations, the high price of these systems has prevented them from becoming a widespread seller, Griffin said. "When you talk to customers, they are very excited, but it boils down to price point," Griffin said. "There are a select few users willing to pay."

Gateway adopted an Mpact chip for DVD-ROM for its Destination PC-TV in June. Chromatic designs the chip and develops software for the accelerator, but other manufacturers, such as Toshiba, actually fabricate the chips.

Earlier today, Cyrix said it would release a reference design for the Media Center, a PC Theatre-like product built around that company's MediaGX processor, said Steve Tobak, vice president of corporate marketing for Cyrix.

A big difference is the price. Initially, a Media Center box will sell for around $1,200 without a monitor. Within a year, retail prices will sink to $999 and then to $699 or $799 within two years.

Cyrix itself will not manufacture Media Center boxes. Instead, it will try to encourage PC manufacturers and electronics makers to build devices around the reference design.

Like PC Theatre, Media Center lets customers watch TV, surf the Internet, and send email as well as perform normal computing tasks, such as developing spread sheets.

"The price is a bit high, but for what it does it is a good deal," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies of the Media Center project. "Gateway 2000 and Compaq have fundamentally done the same thing with PC Theater at three times the price, granted they throw the TV in."