(Reuters) - Taking a page from Apple Computer's AAPL.O iMac handbook, Taiwan computer manufacturer Shuttle Computer 2405.TW is hoping to turn PCs into a living-room accessory with a sleek design and a new coat of paint. "When we first tried it, specks of dirt would get in the paint, bubbles would form, and paint would pool around the vents," said Ken Huang, Shuttle's head of systems development. Shuttle's idea is just one example of the efforts Taiwan's PC manufacturers are making to get consumers to buy another computer and help lift the industry out of its doldrums. PC makers could once count on users regularly upgrading their systems to cope with the ever-increasing power demands of the latest computer game or financial program. Not anymore. Computers purchased a year or two ago are likely to have more than enough muscle to satisfy the average PC user because computer capabilities are more defined by the speed of a user's Internet connections rather than the speed of the computer's microprocessor. So instead of trying to get consumers to upgrade, the idea is to sell them a less-powerful second PC for use as a home entertainment center to surf the Internet, look at photographs, play music or watch movies. WINDS OF CHANGE "There is a clear consensus in the industry that the PC must change, but there is a lot less agreement on exactly what it must change to," said Richard Brown, associate vice president of marketing at Taiwan chip designer VIA Technologies 2388.TW . "Our own view is that while there will always be a market for high-performance PCs, particularly for gaming and financial applications, the growth will be in smaller, more application-specific machines for home entertainment and productivity purposes, etc," he said. In the 1990s, Apple Computer struck a chord with consumers when it introduced iMac, a Macintosh computer with candy-colored casing that reversed its declining fortunes. Now PC makers are looking to do something similar. Via is circulating a variety of ideas for a "concept computer" that has yet to be produced. Via is known for low-cost microchips used in a PC that runs without the standard Microsoft software and Intel chips. The PC costs about $200 at retailers such as Wal-Mart. The sleek silver design of the Via prototype gives the computers the look of consumer electronics like compact-disc and digital video disk players. At less than half the size of a traditional PC, it uses a TV as its monitor, and the exterior reveals no disc drives or buttons in front, just a square blue digital screen to show information like CD tracks currently playing. The entire face slides up to reveal the DVD drive, and it plays discs, instantly without the slow initial start-up of a computer. Like any good consumer electronics gadget, it has a remote control. And, you can also use it as a fully functional PC running Microsoft MSFT.O Windows. Shuttle, which makes "bare-bones" computers for do-it-yourselfers that include only power supply, motherboard and external case, has since moved forward from its initial glitches. Sales of its "XPCs" -- sleek aluminum units about the size of a large shoebox -- helped lift Shuttle out of the red and won rave reviews from techie Web sites around the world, but only after heavy debate in the company over the high-profit, low-volume strategy. "My competitors can make maybe 40 units in the time it takes for me to make 20," Huang said. "We were taking big risks." Among Huang's next ideas: leopard and zebra-print cases. EXPERIMENTATION Tech firms are approaching the living-room PC idea from many angles, however. Microsoft's MSFT.O "Mira" project, for example, uses a detachable monitor. Leave your high-powered PC in the study, pick up a detachable screen and walk around the house using a stylus instead of a mouse. The screen stays connected to the rest of the system via radio waves through a "Wi-Fi" wireless connection. Hewlett-Packard HPQ.N , TiVo Inc. TIVO.O and SonicBlue Inc. SBLU.O have already launched or plan to release digital video recorders that store photos as well as music, giving them PC-like capabilities. "I think this year we will see a lot of concept, but less product," said Charles Smulders, an analyst and vice president for computer hardware platforms at technology market research firm Gartner Dataquest. "It may be 2004 before we see true experimentation. The PC platform has plenty of support and has so far seen off all contenders," he said.