RealTime IT News

Free-PC Makes Good on First Shipment

Big offers on the Internet have been the kiss of death to some entrepreneurial initiatives. Just because Web companies survive their first barrage of requests from visitors, there is no guarantee that they can continue to respond to the assault of heavy demand.

One company that is striving to meet the demands of their successful Internet initiative is Free-PC Inc. The advertising-supported Internet access provider has begun processing shipments of their first 10,000 free Compaq Presario computers this past week.

Recipients of the free computers were randomly selected from 1.25 million applicants. Each applicant provided demographic information to the company for a chance at receiving a computer with free Internet access and email.

Age, gender, household income, geographic location, and family information were collected from participants to ensure that the advertising pool represented a broad spectrum of potential consumers.

From octogenarians to students, male and female applicants with vast differences in household incomes are signing on to the Internet through Free-PC this week.

Although PC recipient Suzi Sevcik had some password problems in gaining access to the Free-PC network, a single e-mail for technical support quickly corrected situation.

"I couldn't get a call through to their technical support because the hours are limited, but I did get a quick, personal response from a technician that helped me get online," she said.

Those applicants receiving computers are now being served advertisements from the hard drive of their PC. The ads appear on-screen at the side and bottom, regardless of whether or not the user is online.

Proprietary software determines the selection of ads seen by each Free-PC user. The technology is designed to ensure that customers see ads of interest to them, based on their initial demographic information they provide.

Sevcik said she was not sure of the ads she received specifically reflected her personal preferences, but she was sure they were annoying.

"The ads are pretty general offers from Amazon, CD Now, AT&T and the like. The offers are good; I've even clicked through to a few of them. But some of the flashing displays and on-screen animation is just a distraction from my work."

"The ads are annoying because alerts make you stop what you're doing to update onscreen advertisements."

All the same, Sevcik said she enjoyed the new computer and free access.

Steve Chadima, Free-PC's vice-president of marketing, reports the company has seen a few PCs returned, but none due to dissatisfaction with the program so far.

"We have had a handful come back, but always because of bad addresses, or people moved and didn't tell us, or people bought a PC in the interim and didn't withdraw their name," he said.

Free-PC believes that they have initiated the launch of a successful advertiser supported Internet business model and the company intends to fulfill more requests for free computers.

Donald S. La Vigne, Free-PC's chief executive officer, said the company has aggressive growth plans.

"This is only the start. We are committed to aggressively growing our one-to-one marketing network and are currently exploring a variety of options that will enable us to meet the incredible demand."

Shipments of the Compaq Presario Internet PCs with free Internet access and will continue through June.

Applicants who were not selected in the initial offering will remain in the Free-PC database for possible future selection.

In the interim, all information applicants provided will be retained on Free-PC's secure server. The company maintains strict privacy policies concerning personal information gathered from both applicants and customers. The data is never provided to outside parties.