Hewlett Packard (HP) will be the first PC maker to ship new systems based on Windows XP, the company revealed this week. HP will begin offering the XP-based systems Friday and can ship them as early as next Monday.

With consumer confidence at the lowest point in decades after last week's terrorist attacks, analysts are now worried that XP won't be able to make a dent in this year's already poor PC sales. Even the International Data Corporation's (IDC's) rosy XP sales predictions are based mostly on 2002, not this coming holiday season, leading some analysts to expect a grim quarter. Previously, IDC had predicted that PC sales would grow more than 5 percent this year; now sales are expected to drop almost 2 percent compared to the previous year.

Still, HP and other major PC makers will do what they can to bolster sales. HP is selling XP-based systems for as little as $750, and rival Dell recently introduced a monster Dimension 8200 that features an Apple G4-like swing-away chassis and a $20 upgrade to XP if you buy it today.