Gateway PCs Get a Makeover

As Gateway sees it, looks count in personal computing, particularly in the mobile sector. The company has introduced a sleek new design for its 500 desktop series and its Gateway 200, Gateway 450 and Gateway 600 notebook computers.

Gone are the typical ivory-colored desktop shells and the flat black finish that characterized the company’s notebook line. In their stead is a new platinum case with graphite accents. Made from plastic and metal, the case is more than twice as thick as a typical PC casing and therefore is more durable, the company contended.

Chasing Apple?

The cosmetic changes were introduced less than a week after Apple booked a successful second quarter marked by rising demand for its iMac line. Apple made quite a splash with its new iMac, which represented a dramatic departure from traditional PC design and gave the company a hipper, cooler image that underscored its commitment to technological innovation.

Now, Gateway has taken a page from Apple’s book, making it easy to upgrade its desktop units through a chassis that can be opened without tools. Six USB (universal serial bus) 1.1 connectors can be accessed from both front and back.

Gateway is hoping its redesigned line will garner as much attention asApple’s did and will attract buyers. “Particularly in the mobile market, the product can be a brand icon for you — as users move around, they will stick out,” Mike Stinson, vice president of Gateway’s mobile division, told the E-Commerce Times.

“They’re clearly not as aggressive as the Apple designs were. Gateway had to meet its price points,” Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group, added. “But they’re different and look good.”

Economic Hit

Gateway could use a way to stimulate customer interest and help its products stand out from the crowd. Like other companies in its industry, the PC maker has taken a hit from the slumping economy. The company reported a net loss of US$123 million in the first quarter of 2002. Unit sales were down 30 percent year over year, to 645,000 in the second quarter, although sales declined just 5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2001.

The redesign also will help the company draw more people into its stores, Stinson maintained.

Experts agreed. “Gateway’s were kind of milquetoast, and there was no real draw,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times. “They needed to create products that people wanted to see.” He noted that Gateway is “chasing market share.”

Bottom-Line Questions

The newly designed computer lines should make their way into Gateway stores by week’s end, but just how much difference they will make to the company’s bottom line will not be apparent until later this year, according to Enderle.

Still, beauty is more than skin deep, according to Stinson, who said Gateway is “hoping” the cosmetic changes hint at the technical goodies that reside inside the company’snotebook and desktop computers.

“We want people to say, ‘Hey, what is that?’ and we can take it from there,” he said.

The company began working on the redesign a year ago but took advantage of Intel’s mobile Pentium 4, Stinson said.

Stinson also stressed that the company is not interested in trading just on its good looks.

“We have introduced more aggressive pricing and [boosted] service and support,” he noted. “We hope that all coalesces around the new products.”

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