Postal deals deliver computers, ISPs

The U.S. Postal Service has signed contracts with two giant computer manufacturers to provide postal workers with computers and Internet service, but not at the big discounts originally sought.

Compaq Computer Corp. has agreed to sell computers to the Postal Service's 800,000 employees for $590 and up. IBM Corp. offers a machine for $719.

Compaq's price is nearly 25 percent higher than the $432 price the Postal Service hoped to secure for a new computer and three years of Internet service. IBM's price is 40 percent higher.

USPS had hoped to offer its employees a three-year deal that would provide them with computers and Internet service for about $12 a month. The idea was "to make it affordable to all USPS employees," the agency said in a notice to computer and Internet companies last fall.

But three months of comparing prices among computer and Internet companies convinced the Postal Service that no such deal exists, USPS spokesman Bob Anderson said.

For $590, Compaq offers postal employees Presario computers with a 700 MHz Intel Corp. Celeron processor, 64M of memory, 20G hard drive, 40X CD-ROM drive, 56 kilobits/sec modem, color monitor, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Millennium Edition operating system and some basic Microsoft software.

However, a Compaq spokeswoman said the company is interested in selling Postal employees more advanced — and higher-cost — computers and components.

IBM offers a nearly identical NetVista Desktop Computer System for $719, but with Lotus Development Corp. software. IBM offers basic Juno Internet service, which is free, and premium Juno service at $200 for three years. The IBM package includes a black-and-white printer.

Both systems come with software that links to a Postal Service Internet portal. The portal will enable postal employees to perform some routine personnel work and receive USPS news and announcements.

Computers will be available in "early spring," a Postal Service spokeswoman said. Commercial financing will be available through the vendors.

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