America Online (AOL) is selling a cheap PC in a bid to boost its shrinking user base with a one-year commitment to AOL's internet access service that is required at purchase.
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The AOL Optimized PC, built by Systemax, is a no-frills model that will compete with other low-cost PCs such as the Linux PCs built by Microtel Computer Systems. It is available through the Wal-Mart Stores website, and discount models are available from larger players such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
The PC comes with a 1.7GHz Celeron processor, 256Mbytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRam (synchronous dynamic Ram), a 40G-byte hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, a 17-inch cathode ray tube monitor and a colour printer from Lexmark for $299.
AOL, which is a division of Time Warner, has launched a website to promote and sell the new PC at http://www.299pcdeal.com.
The year of AOL's dial-up internet connection service costs $23.90 a month, which totals $286.80 for the year.
The cheapest PCs available from Dell and HP cost about $450. They offer faster Celeron processors and other options such as CD-rewritable drives, but they lack monitors and printers as standard features.
AOL has been selling the PC at a limited number of outlets in the US Midwest as part of a market test. It has offered the PC since mid-November, but the $299 offer ends 31 December.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service