Personal computers are fast becoming commodities, as anyone who has visited a consumer-electronics chain store lately has found out. But would you buy a local-area network there? Packard Bell is betting you will. Long the leading seller of PCs through "alternative" channels -- department stores and warehouse clubs -- the Chatworths (Calif.) company has come up with what it calls the "shrink-wrapped" LAN. It's everything you need for sophisticated group computing bundled into a single price.
A three-node starter set -- a file server and three PC workstations -- goes for under $15,000, and larger systems work out to about $2,850 per user. For that, Packard Bell handles all the wiring and network installation and licenses, installs $7,000 worth of software, and provides a year of on-site service. Each network comes with a laser printer and a tape backup system, and each PC includes an internal modem for on-site diagnostics. Best of all, Packard Bell promises you'll be up and running within two weeks after it writes the order.