Dell closes its online marketplace

Less than a year after its ambitious launch, Dell Marketplace, the cutting-edge business-to-business e-commerce site from Dell Computer, has been shut down, according to Ken Bissell, a spokesman for the Texas-based PC maker.

Dell will continue, however, to offer servers bundled with the technology that made the Dell Marketplace possible.

"What we've done is take a directional change," Bissell explained. "We changed the direction to be more of a facilitator and provider of technology to enable companies" to create their own e-commerce operations.

Customers using the Dell Marketplace site were able to buy or authorise other buyers to procure commodity items such as office supplies and computer peripherals from third-party vendors as well as to have access to the entire catalogue of merchandise from B2B software vendor Ariba.

At a later date, Dell intended to ramp up the service level of the Dell Marketplace, giving suppliers the option to create their own virtual show rooms of goods and services using technology from vendor Exterprise.

The Dell Marketplace also used technology from Lante, an Internet consulting firm that specialises in the creation of e-markets.

All of the core technology components will remain available from Dell, bundled into the company's Microsoft-based servers.

Bissell said that although the technological components of the Dell Marketplace were a success, the reluctance of customers to participate in the Dell Marketplace led the company to pull the plug.

Kneko Burney, the manager of market and opportunity studies at Cahners In-Stat Group, an industry think tank, said that for now, services such as the Dell Marketplace may be relegated to private, business-to-business relationships.

"This model will work if a company like Ford says to its suppliers, 'Look, you have to use this'; it would work well, and does work well in the private sector," said Burney, who added that continued advances in technology will eventually make sites like the now-defunct Dell Marketplace more attractive to customers.

Photograph: Dell CEO Michael Dell.

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