Gateway, Microsoft Reach Pact to Promote Net Access

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PC direct marketer Gateway Inc. has reached an agreement with Microsoft to promote its own Internet access service on desktop screens and to help consumers more easily choose an Internet browser that is not from Microsoft.

The move comes after government lawyers sued Microsoft, accusing it of developing restrictive contracts with computer companies that make it difficult for them to promote features and services from Microsoft's rivals.

This week, Gateway, North Sioux City, SD, will begin selling Windows 98 computers that lets users click on its Internet service icon and go to another screen designed by Gateway giving them a choice of Internet access and browser. Previously, people who clicked on the Microsoft Internet access icon were sent to Microsoft's online service.

In separate news, Gateway announced a new purchase program late last month called Your:)Ware, which the company says offers unlimited Internet access and protection against technology obsolescence. Your:)Ware is a six-part program that allows customers to purchase a customized Gateway computer with no money down and pay monthly rates that include unlimited Internet access starting at $49.95.

After two years of ownership, a Your:)Ware client can keep his or her computer or trade it in for its average wholesale value toward the purchase of a new Gateway PC. Unlike with a lease, customers own their computers from the beginning.

"Today, the two major factors precluding a consumer form purchasing a PC are the up-front cost and fear of technology obsolescence," Ted Waitt, Gateway's chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

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