eMachines – the PC manufacturer that is being sued by Apple- is to merge with Free-PC, the companies have announced.

The merged company - to be be called eMachines - will continue selling affordable PCs, and will use Free-PC’s direct marketing technologies to generate additional revenue.

Free-PC caused a splash earlier this year, after offering free desktop computers to customers agreeing to take part in varied advertising and marketing schemes.

eMachines, meanwhile, still faces an outstanding summons from Apple for its iMac-alike eMachine PC computer.

Free-PC chairman Bill Gross said his company's merger move "isn't a sign that the free PC model doesn't work". However, he did admit that, in order to meet its goals, Free-PC needs to distribute "far more than the 30,000 computers we have given away since February".

"One of our dreams was to get the widest possible distribution," and merging with eMachines will make that possible, he said.

Founded in September 1998, eMachines has grown to challenge the largest players in the US market. The company claims to have sold 1.6 million PCs, and, in October, ranked third in the US retail market behind Compaq and HP.