"We want to continue to reinforce the fact that you don't have to get to the high end to conduct your business," said Joe Marengi, senior vice president and general manager of Dell's "relationship group," which caters to the company's largest customers.
Some 1,400 people -- all but a fraction of them corporate customers -- are expected to converge on Austin, Texas, for a high-level account of Dell's short-term plans and an introduction to its new products and services.
Conference sessions and keynote presentations will feature company founder Michael Dell, along with executives from Intel Corp. (intc) and Microsoft Corp. (msft). Jac Nasser, president of Ford Motor Co., which is one of Dell's major clients, will also deliver a keynote speech.
Among other things, the company plans to announce its new Dell Marketplace business-to-business Web site. The exchange, scheduled for launch in late October, will put Dell customers in touch with product and service vendors, such as Motorola Inc. and Pitney Bowes. The online marketplace will also be a technology showcase for Dell, which will take a cut of each transaction.
Dell (dell) also plans to announce new form factors for its corporate PCs, Marengi said.
Direct Connect, now in its second year, comes at a time when Dell and other technology companies are trying to interact with customers at smaller, more specialized trade shows.
Intel and Microsoft, for example, host multiple developer forums each year to make their pitches to customers, developers and media. And IBM Corp. recently dropped its booth at Comdex/Fall.
"We're at the major events, but we really stopped having booths at the major shows a couple of years ago," Marengi said. "You get to a point where there's so much noise, so much clutter, that your message gets lost."
The name Direct Connect says it all. On the other hand, Marengi said, "This isn't a hard sell. It's 'just come down and take away some views on where Dell is going.' "