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Insight Launches Internet-Ready PC

Computer direct marketer Insight Enterprises Inc., in an effort to draw more nonbusiness customers who want hassle-free online access at home, began shipping emachines Inc.'s eTower 300, an Internet-ready PC that is the least expensive desktop computer Insight has sold.

Insight timed the release of eTower to coincide with the holiday buying season and will tout the product in a high-profile promotion during the Insight.com Bowl, a post-season college bowl game that should reach a large number of noncorporate buyers. The game, between the universities of West Virginia and Missouri, will be held the day after Christmas and televised on the ESPN sports network.

Traditionally a company that targets small- to mid-sized businesses with between 100 to 1,000 installed PCs, Insight, Tempe, AZ, is going after buyers who carry out unassisted purchases through the Web. Particularly targeted are customers who are getting their second computers for home use, and parents picking up PCs for their children. The PC sells for $499.99 through the company's Web site, www.insight.com, and over the phone.

“We're expanding our audience to embrace anyone and everyone who is able and interested in doing business with us electronically,” said Brian Burch, senior vice president of marketing at Insight.

Insight's unassisted Web sales rose 330 percent for the third quarter, holding steady at about 5 percent of Insight's overall revenue, which also has grown. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, total sales climbed to $261.2 million, up from $171.3 million a year before. The bulk of the company's revenue comes through catalogs and direct telesales, with other income generated by mail outsourcing services the company provides for manufacturers.

The eTower 300 uses Intel Corp.'s Celeron processor and comes loaded with Microsoft Windows 98 and a free 30-day Netcom trial period for Internet access. No monitor is included. Founded in Aug. 1998, emachines is a joint venture between Korean PC concern TriGem Computer Inc. and monitor maker Korea Data Systems. The firm is betting that the cheapest PCs now available — those priced at between $600 and $700 — are still too expensive for the next 20 percent of households likely to buy computers.

“There's a lot of discretionary purchasing going on at this point of the year and obviously price points have come down dramatically on different styles and types of PCs, both for business and for consumer-oriented audiences. Given that we as a company, in addition to our small- to mid-sized business, also cater to … electronic customers, we thought this was an excellent opportunity to offer them something that's customized for them,” Burch said.

The company carries technology from IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., NEC, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard Co. and others.

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