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Desktops

Upstart's all-in-one PC less than 3 inches thick

Pelham Sloane, which offers a desktop that has all its components tucked behind the display, hopes to make a name for itself in the computer business.

Start-up company Pelham Sloane is hoping to make a name for itself in the computer business with a new all-in-one desktop PC.

The company aims to appeal to consumers and small and medium-size businesses with the design of its PS1500 desktop. All-in-one computers incorporate the display with components such as a processor, a hard drive and a CD drive. While all the contents of the PS1500 fit behind its 15-inch liquid crystal display, the whole package is only 2.75-inches thick, said John Jensen, Pelham Sloane's CEO.

The year-old London-based company made its official debut in the United States this month. Working from its U.S. headquarters in Southport, Conn., the company began taking orders on the PS1500 in the United States via its Web site last week. Its first PS1500s will ship in February, Jensen said.

Pelham Sloane may find a difficult road ahead. All-in-one computers don't typically sell as well as traditional desktops, according to analysts and manufacturers like IBM, which discontinued its all-in-one NetVista X Series in 2002. The all-encompassing machines are often frowned upon by businesses, as computer displays usually last longer than desktop PCs, allowing the displays to be used with several different desktops.

But Jensen says he thinks that times are changing. Over time, all-in-one computers have come down in price so that they are closer to desktops paired with flat-panel displays, while some customers have begun shifting away from the traditional desktop or tower chassis to smaller desktops and notebooks. Both trends improve Pelham Sloane's prospects for success, he said.

"Computers are today much more accepted in the workplace and in the home. I think the psyche of the consumer of computers, today, is much more sophisticated...and (people) are better educated about what they can and cannot do," Jensen said. Therefore, "if it looks nice, is a reasonable price and has all the things people need to do their work, it has much more of a chance to be a mainstream product, as opposed to a nice gadget."

Indeed, there have been some successes, including Apple's iMac, Gateway's Profile and Sony's Vaio W, all of which have stirred enough demand to last through several generations.

Aside from homes and offices of small or medium-size businesses, some other potential markets for Pelham Sloane's desktop include store kiosks, Internet access terminals in bars and restaurants, call centers, government offices and schools.

Pelham Sloane's PS1500 starts at $1,629 and comes with a 15-inch LCD, a 1GHz Via Technologies C3 processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. A version of the machine with a 1.7GHz Intel Celeron costs $1,769, and one with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processor starts at $1,889. A model with a 17-inch screen is in the works, Jensen said.

For comparison, Apple's iMac starts at $1,299 with a 15-inch screen. The company recently launched an iMac model with a 20-inch screen for $2,199. It also offers a version with a 17-inch screen for $1,799.

Sony's Vaio W starts at $1,399 and comes with a 5.3-inch wide-angle screen, a 2GHz Pentium 4 and a fold-up keyboard. It also offers a $1,699, 17.5-inch screen model.

Gateway's Profile 5, which may be PS1500's most direct competitor, starts at $1,099 with a 2.6GHz Celeron and a 15-inch display. A 17-inch screen ups the price to $1,499, and the top-of-the-line Profile 5 comes with a 19-inch screen for $1,999.

Gateway executives are likely to agree with Pelham Sloane's view that the all-in-one PC market is changing. The company recently began offering different all-in-one models for businesses and consumers. The Profile 5 was designed with businesses in mind, while the Gateway 610 Media Center PC, was created with features for consumers.

Aside from offering its all-in-one machine direct to customers, Pelham Sloane is also working on agreements with independent retailers and computer resellers to sell the PS1500, the company said.