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NEC Packard Bell beefs up PC's chops

Computer maker NEC Packard Bell continues its turnaround drive tomorrow, when it will announce its latest PCs designed with new digital music capabilities.

Computer maker NEC Packard Bell continues its turnaround drive tomorrow, when it will announce its latest PCs designed with new digital music capabilities.

Packard Bell says its NEC Home Music Studio PCs contain all the necessary components to record, edit, store, and share digital music. The new computers are the latest attempt by the once high-flying PC company to reverse its sagging fortunes, which include laying off 200 workers this past June.

Packard Bell gained consumer market share in the mid-90's by aggressively cutting prices. Credited with bringing the sub-$1,000 PC to mainstream retailers, Packard Bell was also one of the first major PC makers to struggle to make a profit from bargain-basement computer prices.

Lately, the company seems to be shaking off its reputation for selling bare-bones PCs at rock-bottom prices, regrouping and shifting its strategy to appeal to higher-end customers with more profitable products. The most recent example of this shift is the introduction of the NEC Z1, an all-in-one computer with flat-panel display, launched earlier this year, starting at $1,999.

"Consumers are clamoring for PCs that empower and enhance customized music creation, and we're answering this demand with the introduction of the NEC Home Music Studio systems," said Mal Ransom, senior vice president of Packard Bell NEC's consumer group.

The new NEC Home Music Studio PC essentially consists of a digital music software package, bundled with a computer packed with multimedia features. The computers will offer Intel Pentium III processors running at speeds up to 550 MHz and will feature all-in-one designs similar to the Z1. The Home Music PCs will include a 13GB hard drive, up to 128MB of memory, rewritable CD drive, and will be priced between $1,349 to $1,699, NEC said.

The computers are expected to be preloaded with software from Sonic Foundry which will allow users to sort and catalog songs, download music from the Internet, create and edit original music, and design customized CD labels. The systems will also feature NEC's Internet radio player.

NEC is also expected to introduce new consumer PCs in October, starting at $599 and featuring processors from AMD.