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Culture

Who wants an MTV PC?

The cable network is building what it considers the perfect PC for 18- to 24-year-olds: one that will let them play music while watching MTV shows.

MTV is building what it considers the perfect PC for 18- to 24-year-olds: a machine that has a built-in TV and radio tuner, DVD player and CD burner.

The MTV-branded PCs will use processors from Advanced Micro Devices and be built by LAN Plus, the companies announced Wednesday.

The first MTV PC, expected to be available in the spring, will feature AMD's Athlon XP processor, a flat-panel display, DVD and CD-rewritable drives, and cable TV and radio tuners. It will cost about $1,800, roughly the same as a high-end AMD-based PC from a manufacturer such as Compaq Computer.

Specific model details and photos were not released.

"We're always looking as a brand to expand into new areas," said Tony Calandra, MTV's director of interactive products. "We thought it was perfect for our demographic."

Computing devices that are branded to appeal to a specific market have not fared very well, however.

Palm has tried special-edition handhelds, such as one named after supermodel Claudia Schiffer, to help pump up sales. Mattel also backed brand-name computers for kids, such as the Barbie PC.

However, the aqua-colored Schiffer Palm sold only for a few months after its release in late 2000, before being taken off the market. The Barbie PC and its companion Hot Wheels PC crashed after their manufacturer, Patriot Computer, went bankrupt in late 2000.

Analysts are somewhat skeptical of MTV's potential success as well.

The PC could well become a teen music box or a dorm space-saver, said Brooks Gray, an analyst with Technology Business Research. But "I think that college students and a lot of potential customers that are out looking for PCs and home entertainment systems might be skeptical of this product...because there's no longer a separation between work and entertainment. You've consolidated it into one device, so there's no escape."

However, he added, MTV does have the ability to reach a lot of young people.

"If MTV is willing to give the product marketing exposure on its channels, the product will at the very least be seen by a broad audience," Gray said. The failings of branded devices in the past have, in many cases, been due to a lack of marketing or to high prices.

MTV plans to sell the PC online at first, but it hopes retailers also will want to stock the machines.