Dell inks deals that will put Net content on Dimension desktops

Dell Computer Corp. has signed deals with AT&T Corp.

Dell Computer Corp. has signed deals with AT&T Corp., SBC Communications Inc. and Excite Inc. to offer Internet services and content on its line of Dimension desktops.

AT&T's (NYSE:T) WorldNet service and Excite (Nasdaq:XCIT) will provide Dell (Nasdaq:DELL) Dimensions with dial-up Internet access and a personalized home page for $19.95 -- with the first month free.

PC companies have increasingly begun to realize the importance of their role in introducing consumers to the Internet.

Users will also be able to sign up for high-speed access through SBC's (NYSE:SBC) ADSL technology. That service will initially be available in Texas and California by early next year.

While much of the recent fuss over the Internet has focused on so-called portal sites, PC companies have increasingly begun to realize the importance of their role in introducing consumers to the Internet.

Gateway Inc. (Nasdaq:GTW) has launched its own Internet service provider, while Compaq Computer Corp. (Nasdaq:CPQ) has incorporated Internet access into its keyboard.

While Dell has traditionally shied away from the newer users, it found that its users were requesting services that make computing simpler.

Not everyone is a PC wiz
"There are only so many people at the top of the pyramid. As you work your way down its important to provide capabilities that make it easier and simpler to do things," said Bob Langer director of Dell Online for the Americas. "But we're not turning away from our strategies and the markets we serve we're just recognizing that our markets will expand."

The Internet setup process is essentially inserted into the Windows setup.

After entering in basic information, users are presented with a "Welcome to Direct Connect Direct" screen.

Dell's own browser an option
The user would then be able to choose an ISP, enter some registration data, and then choose a browser. Users will be able to choose from a Dell-designed browser and Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

Dell and Excite will use some of the registration data to set up the personalized Internet start page. That data, along with information about the system provided by Dell, will also be used to set up customized service and support.

Not an exclusive deal, but ...
While the deal with Excite is not exclusive, "it's very difficult to imagine launching with a third party," given the extent of customization and integration, Excite CEO George Bell said. "It would be difficult to imagine trying to stretch this agreement out to include other portals."

Dell does plan to add more ISPs to the choices offered to customers.

While Dell's setup effectively pre-empts Microsoft's own Internet connection process, Dell officials said that they had no problems getting the approval of Microsoft.

Langer said that the company could insert other features into the setup in the future.

"This might be a little bit of an indicator of future capabilities," he said. "If there are requirements for more things to be done earlier in that load process."


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