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Shuttle Computer, a well-known maker of barebones and mainboards, unveiled its own lineup of built-to-order computers sold directly to customers. The company’s move indicates once again the firm’s serious intentions to become system integrator rather than a just another component manufacturer.

Customers are able to choose computers configured for various needs or construct their own system tailored for personal needs. Shuttle’s range of ready-to-go PCs include Home/Office, Business, Media Center and Gaming series. Right now the systems are available only via Shuttle’s web-site, but the company said it expects the PCs that resemble its barebones to reach retail stores across the USA later this year.

Shuttle’s systems are powered by Intel Pentium 4, AMD Athlon 64 or AMD Athlon XP processors and variety of chipsets sporting dual-channel memory controllers. The company also offers to install different graphics cards, including powerful RADEON 9800 PRO-series, as well as acquire additional peripherals, such as 5.1 speaker systems or advanced keyboards and mice.

Shuttle offers configure-to-order system solutions in the range in price between $799 and $2999, depending on configuration. The personal computers from Shuttle include the company’s own LCD monitors.

The top-end gaming or content creation system uses standard desktop computer components and features an Intel Pentium 4 3.40GHz processor, has a 200GB hard drive, 1GB of memory, an ATI RADEON 9800 XT graphics card and a DVD+RW drive. The media center system features the silent and cool “Zen” XPC model, Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Operating System and a TV tuner card with an anticipated MSRP of $999.

The first Shuttle XPC emerged in 2001 and was considered as a rather exotic type of PCs. However, because of small form-factor, style, quiet operation and upgradeability, XPC cubes from Shuttle quickly became very popular among "advanced" end-users, who build computers themselves. With availability of build-to-order XPCs, not really technically savvy customers will also be able to use Shuttle XPCs.

Shuttle’s XPC shipments were between 550 and 600 thousand of units in 2003, a 120% to 140% growth from 2002’s 250 thousand of Shuttle SFF PCs. Nevertheless, other well-known barebone manufacturers, such as MSI and IWILL, are not really pleased with their SFF systems’ sales. Last year it transpired that those companies ship approximately 10 thousands of mini-barebones per month, substantially less compared to Shuttle’s results.

Market Intelligence Center (MIC) based in Taiwan estimated that share of mini-barebone computers among all desktops shipped last year is about 1.5% – that is more than 1.60 million of units. Roughly 30% of the market was occupied by Shuttle, while the remaining tens of companies, including MSI, IWILL, Soltek, Gigabyte, Biostar, ASUS, ECS, ABIT, FIC and loads of others, share the remaining 60% or about a million of units.

MIC also predicted that in 2004 SFF mini-barebone shipments would reach 1.9 million of units, growing about 20% to 25%. At the same time, Shuttle plans to increase its sales of barebones to 750 thousands per year, or 25% - 27% more than in 2003.

The vast majority of Shuttle XPCs is shipped to DIY market today, while only an insignificant part of such computers is supplied to OEMs and ODMs. Targeting the end-user market with fully-functional systems, Shuttle is in position to become a PC maker with huge influence on the whole market.

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