Packard Bell Electronics Inc has depicted the US as a nation of households squabbling over their personal computers and provided what it believed to be the solution: buy one of the company’s new line of multimedia machines that can act not only as computers, but televisions, radios, telephones and answering machines as well (CI No […]
Packard Bell Electronics Inc has depicted the US as a nation of households squabbling over their personal computers and provided what it believed to be the solution: buy one of the company’s new line of multimedia machines that can act not only as computers, but televisions, radios, telephones and answering machines as well (CI No 2,704). The Sacramento, California company is aiming the computers at home users considering buying a second or even third computer. By announcing the products aimed at the lucrative run-up to Christmas this early, Packard gets a head start on its rivals. Once again, Packard Bell is beating the competition to the punch, Richard Zwetchenbaum, a senior analyst at International Data Corp told Reuters. The top of the range computers come with a remote control unit that enables users to initiate a phone call, retrieve messages, turn on the television or FM radio on the computer or switch between more conventional software applications from anywhere in the room. When the user is at the keyboard, similar features can be obtained from the Fast Media key, which when pressed provides the user with a menu bar of functions. Packard Bell claimed that the machines are the first in their class to come MPEG ready. The company has licensed the SoftPEG software MPEG player from Sunnyvale, California-based CompCore Multimedia Inc, which means that the machines can play back full MPEG pictures and sound through the computers’ existing video and sound cards. Packard Bell provides access software for the three principal on-line services in the US as standard: America Online Inc, Prodigy Services Co and CompuServe Inc, as well as its own direct Internet access for World Wide Web browsing, electronic mail, File Transfer Protocol and Usenet.
A 14.4Kbps facsimile modem is standard on most models and a 28.8Kbps version is also available. The computers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including a ‘Corner Computer’ wedge-shaped version that fits in the corner of a desk and a slimline unit that the company claimed could be mistaken for a compact disk player, it is so svelte. Desktop and tower versions are also available. Other features offered include a quad-speed CD-ROM and up to 40 software titles for all types of home users, including children. For ease of use, the computers come with the latest version of Packard Bell’s Navigator Interface, with users’ options arranged into three ‘rooms’: the living room, the software room and the information room. The living room houses most of the consumer electronics appliances, multimedia and software titles are in the software room, while the information room is the place for the on-line and Internet services, along with help and tutorials. The hard disks range from 540Mb up to 2.1Gb and 8Mb or 16Mb RAM machines will be available. Prices will start at around $1,400 for an Intel Corp 80486-based version and the Pentium machines, clocked at 75MHz, 100MHz, 120MHz and 133MHz will start at $1,500, rising to around $3,000. The machines are due for release in Europe around mid-September, with largely the same configurations, but different on-line services. No indication of European prices yet though.