AST has started shipping its $997 Advantage PCs to the 2,200-store Wal-Mart chain, where they will go on sale later this month.
The machines are aimed at households that do not yet own a computer, the same market that Oracle and company are chasing. Market research firm Dataquest estimates that about 29 percent of American homes had a computer in 1995 and that 33 percent will have one by the end of 1996.
But AST is betting that low-end buyers want more than Net surfing and email. Advantage comes equipped with 8MB of memory and Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system, along with word-processing, personal finance, and multimedia game software.