Dell breaks tradition and offers a $599 pre-built PC

In a departure from its build-to-order PC model, Dell Computer has begun selling a US$599 pre-built PC, the SmartStep 100D, on its U.S. Web site. The move is a break from Dell's successful PC manufacturing strategy, which requires that PCs be assembled only once a customer order has been received.

Based on a 1GHz Celeron processor from Intel Corp., the SmartStep 100D comes with 128M bytes of SDRAM (Synchronous DRAM), a 20G-byte hard drive, a 48X CD-ROM and a 15-inch monitor. The PC ships with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Home operating system.

Unlike other desktop PC models offered by Dell that can be configured to meet the specific demands of a customer, the SmartStep 100D offers limited room for customization. The only customizable options for the SmartStep 100D are an extended service warranty and the purchase of accessories, such as a printer, scanner or power protection. There are no options available for other features, such as a faster processor, more memory, a larger monitor or a DVD-ROM drive.

Customers interested in purchasing a PC with more flexible configuration options than those offered by the SmartStep 100D are directed towards Dell's Dimension 2100 desktop PC, which starts at $699 and includes a 900MHz Celeron processor in its standard configuration.

Taiwan-based Mitac International Corp. (MIC) declined to comment on international press reports that it is building the SmartStep 100D under contract for Dell. MIC is bound by contractual terms not to comment on the activities of its customers and was neither able to confirm nor deny that it is building the SmartStep 100D, according to Michael Hsu, a company spokesman.

Dell officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

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