Dell launches ISP, new portal

Dell Computer is jumping into the Internet-service business for its home Dell PC users. It has announced Dellnet, an 'Internet access service program', and is also starting its own portal site.

Dell Computer is jumping into the Internet-service business for its home Dell PC users.

The company has announced the start of Dellnet, described by Dell as an "Internet access service program." The Round Rock, Texas-based company also is starting its own portal site. Portals offer links to other Internet sites, and often also include search engines and services such as e-mail and chat.

Dell has focused on its services for businesses in the past, and has captured a top spot for market share in that area, according to officials. "We have every intention of doing the same thing in the consumer business," said Paul Bell, Dell's senior vice president for the company's Home and Small Business Group, during a teleconference today.

The new program's features were outlined by Bell, and by Janet Mountain, vice president and general manager of the Dell Consumer Division. Called "Dellnet," the program offers the company's home PC customers a year of Internet access when they buy a Dell Dimension desktop or Inspiron notebook PC. Prices for a Dell Dimension with Internet access will start at $US959 or $29 monthly, the company said. Users will be allowed 150 hours of Internet access a month, with a charge of $1.50 per hour for additional time online.

The Dellnet Web site at http://www.dellnet.com will offer free e-mail, discounts on products from other companies, an Internet directory, a search engine, customised news, sports information and chat. The site was created by Snap.com, an existing portal service.

Dell also is offering Dellnet users a file-backup service, providing 20Mb of free storage space on the Web with 30Mb available for an extra $19.95 annually. The storage service will allow users to back up important files, and also will enable them to access files from different computers and locations, Mountain noted.

Further, the company also will give those who buy Dimension PCs with 34.2Gb or 37Gb hard drives a promotional copy of MusicMatch Jukebox 4.0 so that they can record, store and play digital music from their own CD collections or from the Internet.

Dell customers have said that they want to have such services provided for them when they buy PCs, Bell and Mountain said, adding that customers also have said they do not want low-end technology to be part of free service and other offerings.

The current business approach of providing Internet access and services as part of a hardware purchase makes this a "fascinating" time for vendors who are joining that pack, Bell said. But offering free service with computers is more of a marketing strategy than a business model, he said.

Moreover, while the Dell officials said yesterday that the company's Internet strategy puts it ahead of its competitors in the consumer arena, the lead won't last because the other vendors will soon up the ante. Because of that, Bell said, Dell will announce additional services and changes in its strategy in the months to come.

Dell, in Round Rock, Texas, can be reached at +1-512-338-4400 or at http://www.dell.com.

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