By BridgeNews In the latest sign of tough times for the computer hardware industry, Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, Tex., says it will cut 1,700 full-time positions, about 4% of its workforce, to bolster its competitiveness amid softening economic conditions. Although the layoffs are the first of this magnitude in the company's history, Wall Street had been anticipating even larger cuts. During the last week, analysts and online news services have speculated that the company could eliminate as many as 4,000 jobs. Most of the job cuts will affect employees in administrative, marketing, and product-support functions in its central Texas operations. At the end of January, about 22,000 of Dell's 40,200 employees were located in central Texas. Before the job cuts were announced, SG Cowen analyst Richard Chu said in a research note that layoffs would be welcome and that he would be concerned if Dell didn't have plans to cut jobs.