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MicronPC is back in the saddle again

The company releases its first new computer since the former Micron Electronics division was sold to investment firm Gores Technology Group two months ago.

MicronPC released Monday its first new computer since the former Micron Electronics division was sold to investment firm Gores Technology Group two months ago.

The TransPort XT, a notebook, starts at $2,099 and comes with an 800MHz Intel Celeron processor, 128MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. It weighs 6.1 pounds, is 1.3 inches thick and has a 14.1-inch-screen. More expensive models come with an 850MHz Pentium III chip and a DVD drive.

MicronPC is scaling back its retail presence and focusing sales on what it considers the more profitable niches in the PC world--government, education and small to medium-sized businesses.

Despite the overall slowdown in PC sales currently plaguing the industry, analysts say that the government and education niches remain profitable.

"Government and education are fairly consistent and are less affected by the slowing economy," IDC analyst Alan Promisel said. However, he added, "the government segment has become more competitive in terms of pricing" recently, which could lower profit margins.

According to IDC, MicronPC is currently the No. 9 PC maker in the government segment, with a 2.3 percent market share, based on figures from the first quarter. The top PC makers include the usual suspects: Dell Computer, Compaq Computer and Toshiba.

The category in which MicronPC will face the most serious challenge is small and medium-sized businesses, said Charles Smulders, a Gartner analyst.

"The small-business market doesn't make as much sense because that market relates to brand identity a lot more than government and education, and (MicronPC's) brand isn't as strong as its competitors', which include Dell, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard," Smulders said.

According to IDC, MicronPC is the No. 3 PC maker in the category of direct selling via phone and Web orders.