Test Driving Those Bare Bones P Cs

"Honey, can you pick up O.J., bananas, peanut butter, and a PC?" No, you won't find personal computers at your neighborhood 7-Eleven just yet. But given how rapidly hardware prices are crashing, the possibility doesn't seem that remote. On Mar. 15, Seattle-based Microworkz Computer unveiled WEBzter Jr., priced at $299, including a year of Internet access via EarthLink. Microworkz claims half a million systems have been ordered, although it doesn't even start shipping until Apr. 19. Microworkz is hot on the heels of emachines, an Irvine (Calif.) PC marketer that has sold about 500,000 sub-$600 systems since November (BW--Apr. 5). Analysts expect Compaq and Hewlett-Packard to field sub-$500 models around the fall. "The most explosive area of the market is in the $300-to-$600 range," says David Stremba, principal PC analyst for Dataquest in San Jose, Calif.

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