Apple Computer lowered the price of its eMac to $699, but for most consumers the new price may prove strictly academic.

That's because the price cut, which went into effect last week, applies only to customers at Apple's education store. Individuals who claim an affiliation with a school, such as students and teachers, can get an eMac for $779, while those purchasing the all-in-one computers on behalf of a school can get them for $699.

Education pricing for the eMac used to start at $849 for institutional buyers, according to Apple. The entry-level model with the CD-ROM, as opposed to the model with the CD-RW, is not available to individual education buyers.

"With new prices starting at just $699 for education customers, eMac is now even more affordable as we head into the education buying season," an Apple representative said in a statement. The "eMac offers a stunning 17-inch flat CRT (cathode-ray tube) display and a G4 processor in a remarkably compact design that is 8 millimeters less deep than the original 15-inch iMac."

Apple's prices for education machines have dropped below the $700 line before; the iMac with the CRT monitor is now priced at $649 for institutional education buyers. Still, analysts called the new education discount an aggressive move, in part to differentiate between its own products, and in part to stem education losses to Austin, Texas-based Dell Computer.

"They've needed to put some space between the eMac and iMac for a while," said Ross Rubin, an analyst with research firm eMarketer in New York. "I suppose this either reflects some economy of scale they've been able to achieve or more likely is a response to you-know-who in Austin. Dell's been eating away at Apple's market share in education for years."

Rubin called the eMac Apple's attempt to "outdesign" Dell by developing an education-specific computer. Dell, however, has continued to best Apple on price.

"This is obviously a play to stop the bleeding," Rubin said. "It's reminiscent of the deeper discounts Apple used to give in the early days as it was establishing market share."

For individual education buyers, $779 will buy an eMac with a 700MHz G4 PowerPC processor, 128MB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 40GB Ultra ATA drive and a CD-rewritable drive. For $949, education buyers will get a drive that combines DVD and CD-RW capabilities, and for $1,149 they will get an 800MHz processor, 256MB of SDRAM, 60GB of storage and a SuperDrive combining DVD-R and CD-RW.

For institutional buyers, there are four options ranging from the $699 eMac with a 700MHz processor, 128MB of SDRAM, 40GB of storage and a CD-ROM drive to the $1,099 eMac with the 800MHz processor, 256MB of SDRAM, 60GB of storage, a SuperDrive and a 56K internal modem.