Microsoft joins 'free PC' fray

Microsoft joins 'free PC' fray

Microsoft plunged into the "free PC" fray on Wednesday with its announcement that customers who pay upfront for three years of MSN (Microsoft Network) Internet Access will get a 400MHz PC from computer manufacturer Lan Plus at no cost.

At $US17.99 a month, the total comes to $US647.64 for unlimited access for 36 months. Customers can order a 15 inch monitor for an additional $US139.99 or a 17 inch monitor and a 1200 dpi (dots per inch) colour inkjet printer from Lexmark International for an additional $US249.99.

The PC includes a K6-2 400MHz processor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD); a 4GB hard drive; 64MB of RAM; a 40x CD-ROM; a 3Com US Robotics. 56Kbps V.90 fax modem; keyboard and mouse; Microsoft Windows 98; Microsoft Plus 98 with antivirus software installed; one year of warranty service; and one year of toll-free tech support.

Microsoft is the latest in a string of companies hoping to entice new customers to their products or services via the offer of a "free" PC. Last week, Micron Electronics announced a "free PC" offer to customers who pay $US1087 for three years of Internet access from the company.

America Online (AOL) is offering a $US400 rebate on eMachines computers for people paying for a three-year subscription to CompuServe 2000 interactive service. CompUSA offered a similar customer discount under a deal with eMachines and CompuServe earlier this month, while Best Buy teamed with Prodigy Communications on its $US400 rebate for a three-year Internet service offer.

In March, DirectWeb announced its offer of a no-charge PC for customers in the Philadelphia area ordering Internet access from the company. Another company, Gobi, offered Internet access and a computer for $US25.99 per month for a three-year subscription.

FreePC started the trend earlier this year with an offer of free computers to people willing to give up personal information that could be passed on to advertisers. In addition, advertisements would run on the sides of the PC screens.

Microsoft has ventured in this realm before with an offer for a computer or handheld device at no charge to customers who obtain a mortgage through the Microsoft Network HomeAdvisor.

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