$299 WEBzter Jr. PC, Floppy Drive Optional

1999: A special thanks to Jeffrey Cho of The iMac NewsPage for bringing this one to my attention: Has the Age of Disposable Computers Arrived?

The US$299 WEBzter Jr. from Microworkz is one of the first PCs to emulate the iMac by shipping without a floppy – but with a 56k modem, so it’s Internet ready.

For $299 you get a 300 MHz Cyrix MII processor with 512 KB L2 cache (roughly comparable to the Pentium II), 32 MB of memory, a 3.2 GB hard drive, a v.90 56k modem, USB, serial ports, a parallel port, one PCI slot, one EISA slot, 3 expansion bays, a keyboard, a mouse, Windows 98, Corel WordPerfect Suite, one year of Earthlink Internet access, and a one-year warranty.

Update: It turns out the Earthlink service alone would have cost you $240 in those days!

The computer can dedicate up to 2 MB of memory for video use and includes a 16-bit 3D sound system.

Here’s what the basic system does not include: a monitor, CD-ROM, a floppy drive, speakers (no sound without them!), or a network card.

For $99 additional, you can have the WEBzter Jr. customized with CD-ROM, floppy drive, and a pair of speakers. I’m guessing this is how most users will buy it – you need some way to install new software!

The Market

Who is going to buy the WEBzter Jr.?

Although it’s being marketed as an Internet PC, I see the perfect market as people like my wife and my father.* They both own older PCs that are slow by today’s standards and not at all Y2K compliant. Instead of investing in a motherboard, memory, Windows 98, and whatever else they’d need to update their antiques, for $299 the WEBzter Jr. puts it all in a ready-to-use package.

I think the WEBzter Jr. should be seriously targeted at that market. People using 386 or 486 machines will find the pedestrian 300 MHz GII a huge step up. It’ll resolve their Y2K worries. It’ll give them the current version of Windows. All for $299! (Sure, I’d rather they switched to Macs, but if they’re still enamored of Windows….)

No wonder Jeffrey Cho asks if this is a disposable computer!

However, I doubt the $299 package will be very popular. Yet once you add the CD-ROM/floppy/speaker upgrade, the WEBzter Jr. becomes a $399 option for Web, work, and game use.

VGA and multiscan monitors are already available on the clearance market for under $60, so one could have a complete Windows computer for under $500 including shipping.

And for Mac users who need Windows now and then, it could be a real alternative to PC emulation or an expensive DOS card.

iMac Competitor?

The “web” part of the name shows the WEBzter Jr. and it’s siblings being the $1,199 iMac includes a sharp 15″ multiscan screen, a 6 GB hard drive, a powerful video subsystem that doesn’t use system RAM, a blazingly fast 266 MHz G3 processor, ethernet, and the incredible Mac OS. It’s really in a whole different league.

Still, Apple has only reached the sub-$1K market with clearance iMacs. Until it can produce a headless iMac for under $600 or so, Windows will own the entry level. And with an apparently restricted supply of slower, less expensive G3 chips, that might not be possible. (Thank goodness Apple doesn’t make any Macs with second-rung processors, as many of the Windows manufacturers do.)

The WEBzter Jr. has a very real market. It probably won’t take any sales from the iMac, but it is a market Apple should consider pursuing.

Update

Keith Latman, the founder of Microworkz and the person behind the WEBzter Jr. shares that orders came in so fast that his production team was unable to keep up with demand. No surprise at that price! But after Earthlink pulled out, the company was unable to deliver what it had promised and soon closed its doors.

Keith Latman says that he took it upon himself to buy computers for those customers who paid for but never received a WEBzter PC, 111 in total.

* I don’t recall exactly what my wife was using at the time, but I believe it was a previously retired 80386 PC that had been donated to her adoption agency so she could use an HP OfficeJet, a device that was only fully functional when connected to a Windows PC. My dad was still using a 80286-based Tandy 1000TX that I had sold him when I worked at Radio Shack in late 1987.

Further Reading

keywords: #nofloppy #webzterpc #webzterjr

short link: https://goo.gl/cgKo5A

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