Looking to attract households that still aren't online, and potentially allowing some small businesses to set up shop at home, AOL is offering new customers a $299 computer system if they sign a one-year contract for dial-up services that cost $23.90 per month.
The promotion, made by direct mail and touted in select retail stores, is detailed on an AOL e-commerce page.
It includes a desktop unit from New York manufacturer Systemax, as well as a monitor, keyboard and color printer. A shipping fee applies.
An AOL spokesman said the promotion is a test and expires Dec. 31.
The $299 PC deal is the latest attempt by the Time Warner's online arm to win new users. In recent quarters, AOL has seen users switch to lower-priced rivals or choose broadband from a regional telecom or cable company.
Earlier, AOL announced plans to launch a Netscape-branded version of its service for $9.95 to rebuff competition from United Online.
The company is also testing anti-spyware software which will be included as a free upgrade in early 2004. The application which helps thwart programs that track users' movements on the Web or collect personal data. It could be an attractive feature for security-minded consumers.
Although AOL's PC offer is the most aggressive, it is not the only Internet service provider bidding for new subscribers during the holiday season.
"We have been methodically identifying retail opportunities to support our strategy of bringing DSL closer to customers," SBC spokesman Joe Izbrand tp://wwwsaid.
In all, SBC's Yahoo! service will be available in 2,000 retail stores for $26.95, with a year commitment to the service. Other chains included in the promotion include RadioShack, Cingular Wireless, Gateway, Sam's CLub, BJ's Wholesale Club and Kmart.
"We believe we will triple our retail store sales in 2004 based on the strong customer response we have received so far," Izbrand said. He declined to give more specific figures.
It's a great time of the year for cost-conscious consumers to leverage connectivity deals while the holiday shopping season is accelerating toward its Christmas climax. Small office and home office workers may be able to leverage a few deals that are intended for consumers, as ISPs seek to sign-up new customers to long-term connectivity deals before the year is through.
Adapted from internetnews.com.