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HP debuts $999 small-business PC

The Brio line targets firms with a small budget and limited tech support.

    Hewlett-Packard (HWP) today unveiled a new line of PCs starting at $999 and targeted at the needs of small businesses, as reported by CNET's NEWS.COM last Friday.

    Small companies of less than 100 employees have more limited budgets for purchasing equipment and usually lack information systems personnel who deal with technology service issues, making their needs quite different from those of the Fortune 1000 companies big vendors like HP are used to serving.

    In response, HP will start selling the "Brio" line of PCs, which comes with software bundles and hardware configurations different from their Vectra line of corporate PCs.

    For example, the PCs come with diagnostic software for helping computer novices fix problems. When the program can't solve a problem, an HP technician can dial in to the computer and install software, according to HP. The computers also come with a program which guides users through the setup of PC networking functions, such as allowing other users on a network to gain access to shared peripherals like CD-ROM drives, modems, and backup storage devices.

    The Brio computers will be offered in 11 models in the Business, Advanced Business, and Advanced Business Communication configurations. A Brio 8012 Business Model with 166-MHz MMX Pentium processor, 16MB of memory, and a 2.1GB hard disk drive will have an estimated street price of $999.

    A Brio Advanced Business Communication model with 233-MHz MMX Pentium, a 6GB hard disc drive, 32MB of memory, a backup storage drive, a 24X CD-ROM, and a graphics accelerator card will have an estimated street price of $2,087. These models come with a modem and software which allows the modem to be shared on a local area network (LAN) by up to three users, saving companies the cost of extra modems and phone lines.

    PC vendors are interested in this market because the small business segment is growing at twice the rate of the overall PC industry, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). IDC estimates that there were between 7 and 8 million small businesses with fewer than 100 employees in the U.S. in 1996.