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Wal-Mart Considers Rebranding PCs

Sources say Wal-Mart is being courted by several Taiwan-based notebook PC makers.

Retail mega-giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to add notebook PCs to its product list next year, according to news reports.

Taiwan's China Economic News Service (CENS) and analyst firm ARS, quoting industry sources, said on Thursday that Wal-Mart is being courted by several Taiwan-based notebook PC makers, including Arima Computer, Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics, and Wistron, to provide products for the new line.

Wal-Mart is expected to place one or two test orders in the first quarter of next year, CENS said. Arima will get an order for more than 100,000 units, according to that organization. Arima had built notebook PCs for Hewlett-Packard but that relationship ended early this year, CENS said.

Of the other three vendors, Quanta and Compal are the world's largest portable PC vendors, while Wistron was spun off from Taiwan-based Acer in mid-2001.

In a research note, Sam Bhavnani, mobile computing analyst at ARS, said he expects Wal-Mart to enter the market with a sub-$800 model targeting value-conscious users to the detriment of such suppliers as Dell, HP, and Toshiba. Wal-Mart is currently testing the notebook space with HP-branded units, he said. However, he noted, Wal-Mart will probably not enter the high-end consumer or the corporate space.

Bhavnani said that, based on Arima's current products, Wal-Mart could be considering three possible configurations, all of which include a 15-inch LCD panel, a 40-Gbyte hard drive, a DVD/CD-RW drive, and Windows XP.

One configuration, based on the Celeron 2.5GHz processor with 256 Mbytes of RAM, could be priced at $699. The second, based on the Athlon XP 2000 processor and 256 Mbytes RAM, could be priced at $749. Wal-Mart could also offer a Pentium 4 model with 2.6 GHz processor and 512 Mbytes of RAM for $899, Bhavnani said.

This article appears courtesy of CRN, the newspaper for builders of technology solutions.

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