The iMac Channel

$300 PC, Floppy Drive Optional

Dan Knight - 03.30.1999 - Tip Jar

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$300 Webzter Jr. is one of the first PCs to emulate the iMac by shipping without a floppy - but with a 56k modem, so it's fully Internet ready.

For $300 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.

The computer can dedicate up to 2 MB of RAM 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 want some way to install new software!

The Market

Who is going to buy the Webzter?

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 $300 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 $300! (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 $300 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.

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