"Where we're seeing the growth is in the Pentium II category," said Richard Austin, managing director of Evesham Micros, a leading mail-order PC vendor. "About 70 per cent of our sales are PII-233 now. It has to be said that Intel has been very clever. They've swiftly moved to a place no-one can catch them. They're happy to leave the Pentium-class space to the rest." Evesham until recently was selling more than half of its systems based on AMD's K6 processor.
Demetre Cheras, marketing director at direct seller Elonex, agreed.
"Sales of Pentium II have dramatically increased. A lot of our business is to government departments who aren't too concerned about the latest speed processor but PII is still over 60 per cent of our business now."
John Shepheard, UK and Ireland country director, at Gateway 2000, believes his company is selling a higher proportion of Pentium II than anybody.
"When PII launched, Gateway's positioning was very different anyway. We said PII was for everybody, not just top-end applications. That's now happening. Just because you invent a new engine, you can't tell people how to drive."
In contrast to the US where lowball PCs - often sold primarily as Net access devices - are very much flavour of the month, budget-priced desktops are enjoying only limited success in the UK.
Evesham sells one of the first systems based on IDT's WinChip, a device the maker claims runs like a 166MHz Pentium and includes MMX capabilities. The £449 model is selling pretty well, Austin says, but nothing like the Pentium II models.
"I'm not sure there are many people buying PCs just to access the Internet," Austin said. "It's the sort of thing people would like to think is happening. We've got a PII system from £829 + VAT so there's less scope at the bottom end. However, there is more activity in the lower price bracket. For a long time our average selling price was around £1,300 and that has fallen to closer to £1,000."
Elonex's Cheras says that although Intel is once again looking to dominate the top end, there may be some scope for the right entry-level systems.
"Our Cyrix MediaGX-based Lumina has done very well for us. We sold 20,000 in France after a special 'Back To School' promotion," he said.