Packard Bell Packs it In

Packard Bell NEC announced this week that it is undergoing a "major reconstruction," laying off 80 percent of its 2,600-person work force and essentially abandoning the consumer market. The company had lost $650 million in 1998 and $150 million so far this year.

The company was a pioneer in selling low-cost computers, but its products suffered from problems with build quality and customer service. Ron Fuchs, vice president of corporate communications for Packard Bell, said, "The company took its eye off the ball and damaged the [Packard Bell] brand a few years ago." Packard Bell computers will not be available for sale in the U.S. next year; the company will instead sell only the NEC line of computers.

ReplayTV's 2020 Vision

Replay Networks Inc. this week introduced ReplayTV 2020, a personal video recorder with twice as much storage capacity as the previous model. The $699 device, like Philips's competing TiVo, stores TV programs on a hard drive and can be programmed to search for and record a user's favorite shows. Replay's new model comes with 20 gigabytes of storage space, enough for 20 hours of programming at "standard" quality or six or seven hours at the highest-quality setting.

Story Update; Internet Access Revisited

To answer the many questions we've received on this score, a searchable version of last Friday's directory of online service providers, including more providers than we could fit into the print edition, is coming soon to FFWD's Web home . Note that we had three items listed incorrectly in last week's chart, which will be corrected in the online version:

* Bellatlantic.net's $20-a-month plan should have been listed as including 150 hours of access.

* Capital City Cyberlink should not have been included; it's no longer based in the D.C. area and no longer offers toll-free tech support.

* MSN Internet Access should have been listed as carrying about 18,000 newsgroups.

Top Categories Among Internet Shoppers (Oct. 25-31)

1. Software

2. Music

3. Toys

4. Books

5. Videos and DVDs

6. Hardware

7. Flowers/cards

8. Apparel

9. Health and beauty

10. Sporting goods

Source: PC Data

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