Dell to launch ISP service

When a stockholder at Dell Computer's annual stockholder meeting here asked whether the company 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-$1000 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 IDC.

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.

Rob Small, national marketing manager for Dell Australia, said that "it is only a matter of time before we see this strategy in Australia. Dell has already rolled out Dell.net in three countries in Europe, and there will be a similar initiative in US."

Small added that he will attend a briefing on Dell's total Web strategy in Singapore this week.

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