BT is moving in on PC retailers' turf with the launch of BT Home Computing. This sees the telco offering customers a full package including a PC, home setup, round-the-clock support and a broadband connection.

Working with HP and Toshiba, BT hopes to take the mystery out of buying the right PC. "Choosing and using a home computer shouldn't be the stressful experience it clearly is. To help customers get the most out of technology and communications we've made it easy for them to choose the right PC with minimum hassle", explains Angus Porter, MD of BT Retail's consumer division.

BT Home Computing provides eight different packages. The five desktop PC options are standard, family, professional, entertainment and advanced, reflecting the types of likely customer use. Notebook users can choose from standard, professional and advanced packages.

Pricing starts from £35.99 per month for an HP desktop with a 1.8GHz Celeron processor, 128MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, 16-speed DVD-ROM drive and a 17in CRT (cathode ray tube) or 15in flatpanel display. Windows XP Home and Works Suite 2002 software are bundled with the package and ethernet and ADSL are built in, so the machine is broadband ready.

Of course you might be able to put together a similar system for less. A visit to Dell's online store, offered us the opportunity to buy an identically specified PC, with a 15in flatpanel and three-year onsite, next day support warranty, home installation and free delivery for £837. You would have to add a bit more on for software as it doesn't include Norton's Internet Security Suite, which costs £50. Add an ADSL modem should you want one, which is another £100, bringing the total to £937 — still quite a saving on what BT is charging.

Also bear in mind that you could opt for a cheaper warranty service that covers you for a shorter period of time or charges you only when you need help. If you choose not to go with an ADSL version of broadband you can save £50 on the modem too.

But BT says that what it can offer goes beyond the hardware package. "We are positioning this as much more than a piece of hardware. This is about the service wrap that comes with it", says Peachey.

BT spokespeople also point out that you can buy the package outright, rather than via the monthly payments, which makes the whole deal a lot cheaper with the kit and installation costing £780.70, which looks better than the Dell deal. But by the time you’ve added on the three-year onsite support at £9.99 per month (which works out at £360 over three years, whereas Dell includes support in its purchase price), BT's price starts to look less attractive. In fact, we worked out you’d end up shelling out £1,140 in total.

Another point to note is that the BT deal requires you to sign up for the support option, even though a spokeswoman for the company said the PC may well also be covered by a manufacturer's guarantee. So you could find yourself paying out for cover you don't need.

She also pointed out that BT isn't trying to come up with the cheapest way to buy a PC, but is more concerned with pushing the idea of a hassle-free experience. Peachey says BT’s engineers will install the entire system, including your broadband connection, which must be supplied by BT. Engineers will also try to help with adding peripherals, offering customers "the BT ring of trust". Peachey also hinted that in the future the company will expand this service to help customers set up home networks to share broadband connections between multiple PCs.

For more information on BT Home Computing call 0800 800 832 or visit www.bt.com/homecomputing.