Dell set to launch ISP Service

In response to a stockholder question at Dell's annual stockholder meeting in Austin, Texas, about whether Dell will be getting into the Internet service provider business, Michael Dell answered in the affirmative.

The questioner asked the Dell chief executive officer if the company has plans to acquire a major ISP such as MindSpring or whether the company plans to fund an ISP service in the sub-$US1000 PC space.

While Dell did not address the MindSpring rumour he did answer the other half of the question succinctly.

"We have rolled out Dell.net in Europe and you can expect a similar announcement in the US fairly soon which will include purchasing Internet access from Dell and enhanced content," he said.

This would not be Dell's first move away from selling only hardware. Currently Dell has a co-branded Web site with Excite.com -- www.dell.excite.com -- for personalised news and content as well as PC support.

According to one analyst the attempt to become an ISP for consumers is an extension of a strategy that has proven successful in the commercial market.

"It is part of customer lock in," said Roger Kay, an analyst at International Data Corp.

A Dell spokesman agreed. "It matches the same work we've done with corporate customers in building premier pages. It creates a personal relationship," said Bill Robbins, a representative for Dell.

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