At a time when folks are particularly gun shy about corporate malfeasance, maybe Gateway's (NYSE:GTW) timing could have been better. Announcing that it has closed on its eMachines purchase and that it is switching auditors in the same breath? Not too smooth.

However, the departure of PricewaterhouseCoopers isn't nearly as interesting as who is moving in. With eMachines in the mix and a new CEO at the helm, Gateway is back in the box business in a major way. No, it never really left; however, acquiring the rival maker of bargain-priced computers does seem to contrast its recent upscale expansion into plasma television sets and other consumer electronics.

True, as an investor who enjoys cash as a flotation device, I'll miss that in Gateway. With $1.1 billion in cash and short-term investments at the beginning of the year, the company had a mattress of nearly $3.40 a share. It only forked over $30 million in cash for eMachines, but the 50 million new shares that were issued in the deal dilute that cash balance to nearer $2.80 per share.

And while the company may have lacked the clout and raw size of rivals Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), at least it had those greenbacks. The floor sinks a few pegs lower now, and that's always a scary notion when a company is struggling to turn a profit.

Gateway expects to achieve sustained profitability by next year -- and that carrot has been dangled before investors in the past -- but it's different this time. eMachines makes Gateway intriguing again. Making eMachines CEO Wayne Inouye the combined company's new leader brings in a proven cost-conscious veteran that now has the luxury of a significant horde of cash at his disposal.

Both brands will continue. That means Gateway will be clawing away at its direct model, while its new eMachines systems continues to attract value hunters at consumer electronics specialists like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC). Does this mean that you will soon see the eMachines 42-inch plasma television at a superstore near you? No way.

But Gateway will now emerge as a more important player in personal computing. So, where are you going PricewaterhouseCoopers? The party is just getting started.

Are cheaper machines more likely to break down? What happens if I press the ctrl, alt, and delete buttons at the same time? All this and more -- in the Help with this STUPID Computer! discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz works on his HP computer while staring into his Dell monitor -- with a pair of Gateways in the bedrooms. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.