AOL Launches PC Line

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America Online is introducing a budget PC bundled with its Internet access software in both Spanish and English, as it looks to lasso novices and Spanish-speakers alike with the offering.

The AOL Optimized PC is scheduled to go on sale in Office Depot retail stores across the U.S. later in August. AOL is positioning it as an easy way for novice users to get online.

The entry-level PC system, including a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and printer, is priced at $299.99 with a 12-month membership commitment to the AOL service for $23.90 a month, bringing the total to $586.79.

Systemax will manufacture the PC, which features an Intel Celeron 2GHz processor, 256MB of memory, a 40GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a 56kbps modem. It has a 17-inch screen and comes with a color inkjet printer from Lexmark International.

In addition to the Internet access software and Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, AOL is bundling an office suite that is a repackaging of Sun's StarOffice 7.0. It includes a word processing program, spreadsheet application, and presentation program.

Bilingual Services

AOL expects to tap a still-large market with its entry-level system. Over one-fourth of U.S. households have yet to buy their first computer, according to the company. Also, fewer Spanish-language dominant households have Internet access when compared to English-language households.

AOL says its Latino Spanish-language Internet service has already proven successful. It has expanded since its introduction last year to serve over 2 million members, according to an AOL spokesperson.

Now, AOL is also targeting bilingual households by giving them the capability to switch between Spanish and English preferences for both the Internet access service and the AOL applications.

Expecting strong demand for the PC, AOL plans to partner with other manufacturers in coming months, and add more retail distributors, the spokesperson says. The company currently has no plans to extend the offering outside of the U.S., however.

Note: PC World has a partnership agreement to provide content to America Online.

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