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Compaq launches PC Theater

The world's largest PC maker teams with Thomson Consumer Electronics in an effort to dominate the PC-TV convergence market.

Compaq (CPQ) today announced a PC-TV hybrid, called the PC Theater, as part of a plan to dominate the emerging convergence market of computers and consumer electronics.

As reported earlier by CNET NEWS.COM, the PC Theater will compete with Gateway 2000's (GATE) big-screen PC, Destination.

Compaq teamed with Thomson Consumer Electronics to build the PC Theater. The product combines a high-performance 200-MHz MMX Pentium-based computer from Compaq with a 36-inch television monitor from Thomson's RCA division and also includes consumer electronics features such as an advanced surround-sound audio system. An optional DVD player can let users run movies and interactive content. The product is priced at $4,995.

PC Theater features
On-screen menus An on-screen display provides access to electronic program guides, television set-up controls, picture quality control, video and CD sources, and all PC entertainment, including the Internet and games.
Connectivity The system can hook up to a digital satellite system, VCR, DVD player, Laser Disc player, home stereo system, cable television, and video camera.
Universal remote A "universal" remote control system allows users to control both TV and PC functions and is also compatible with certain brands of VCR, satellite receiver, cable box, DVD, laser disc, and audio equipment.
Picture in picture Technology that enables the viewer to watch two channels at the same time without a second signal source, such as a VCR.

Earlier this month, Compaq and Intel (INTC) announced an initiative to set a technology standard for convergence products.

Products developed to the "PC Theater" specifications will have television receivers and Web access. These PCs could also act as the intelligent hub of a home entertainment system and could control devices such as VCRs, CD jukeboxes, and telephony equipment from a single system interface.

Gateway 2000 pioneered the big-screen PC-TV market. Gateway's Destination PC TV features a 31-inch VGA monitor, 166- or 200-MHz Pentium processors with an MMX multimedia or a 200-MHz Pentium Pro chip, and an optional surround-sound system.

Destination has enjoyed moderate success, particularly in business and education markets, where it is used for presentations. While the system was originally intended for the consumer market too, the base price of $2,999 proved too high for most home users.