RealTime IT News

Packard Bell-NEC Adds WorldNet to Desktop

Packard Bell NEC announced it will ship its latest personal computers with a gateway to AT&T's WorldNet Internet service, further evidence that PC makers are starting to call the shots when it comes to desktop real estate.

The new PCs--which will include NEC's Ready PC line--will feature an AT&T icon on the desktop offering Internet connectivity via its WorldNet Service with one month of free access.

AT&T will also enable potential customers to sign up for its long-distance service through the icon with a free software-giveaway incentive.

"This agreement with Packard Bell NEC is the first time that we've bundled our residential long distance service and Internet service together and offered it to customers on their personal computers," said Don Herr, AT&T vice president for consumer markets, in a statement.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

On May 28, Packard Bell NEC subsidiary NEC Computer Systems Division said it would not bundle Microsoft Explorer 4.0 on its Versa LX and SX notebooks that feature the Windows 95 operating system. Instead the company said it would provide Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Navigator 4.0 software on a separate CD-ROM.

Commenting on the move, NEC spokeswoman D.J. Anderson was quoted by Reuters last week as saying, "It's all about giving the customer choice, which is what they want anyway."

Today's agreement between Packard Bell NEC and AT&T follows steps taken by PC maker Gateway to boost its own Internet service.

The company announced a new PC leasing program last week featuring unlimited Net access through its gateway.net service.

As reported recently in InternetNews.com's Internet Stock report, the implications of computer manufacturers featuring access to the Net from the desktop are significant.

The move could have a major impact on the future of the industry with Internet service providers making overtures to sign up with big PC makers, or on the flip side of the coin, computer manufacturers looking to acquire leading ISPs.