Time is to launch a range of sub-£400 PCs to appeal to the growing number of people that want cheaper second computers.

The market for all-singing all-dancing machines is shrinking and Time can feel the wind changing. The Ellipse range will be the answer to this problem, with PCs starting at £399.

"The market is moving away from first time buyers and towards second machine buyers [who want] less functionality," explained Nicholas Yates, Time's brand manager. PC sales are still growing every year, but the rate of growth is decreasing.

The mark-up on cheap PCs is very small, so Time will try to make more profit on every deal by tying in PCs with consumables, such as printer cartridges, sold through its TimeXtra program. Launched last November, TimeXtra is Time's stab at having a seemingly separate e-commerce division within Time Computers.

Though Time's Yates is bullish about the PC market in general, sales of more expensive, fully featured PCs are flagging and Time doesn't need a weatherman to see which way the vane is swinging.

"You can't just wait for the disaster to happen. You have to predict it, manipulate it. We sat down and tried to work out where these people are going to get their [consumables]," said Yates, explaining how Time wants to make money out of extras for PCs, just like PC World does.

According to recent research by analyst firm Gartner, Time may be doing the right thing. Time is a direct sales company, as Yates pointed out and, though it might seem brash to try to compete with PC World, Time's overheads are lower because its kit is made here in Britain.

Gartner says prices should drop as PC makers and sellers fight to maintain growth in an ever more competitive market. This move by Time seems to lend weight to that prediction.