Gateway will offer an ISP service to all new purchasers of its PCs, providing what it believes will be a compelling one stop shop where customers can buy a computer and Internet in one call. Finance will also be arranged by the PC firm through its new 'YourWare' scheme.
The Internet offering has already been launched in the US and will be available to European Gateway customers this Autumn. "Nothing has been announced or finalised" on price, according to Emmanuel Davidson, director of corporate communications at Gateway. But the company's reasons for offering an ISP service are clear. Mike Maloney, Gateway's director of marketing explains: "One of the things we were finding is that more and more people coming on the line, particularly in the US, wanted Internet access, and they wanted it as part of an overall deal. They didn't want to have to go buy their PC, and then have to go through another total rigmarole...it was a very clear customer driven requirement from us. It is also helping us to diversify our revenues."
The Net service may offer hidden savings for Gateway. When the service was launched in the US last November, IDC analyst, Kevin Hause observed: "The PC maker is likely to benefit financially by reducing the number of service calls or returned PCs that result from users who experience difficulty establishing a Net account."
Maloney has an answer for the critics that say Gateway does not have the telecoms skills to offer a decent ISP service: "We have to skill up - no question about that. This is a new business venture for us, its an area that we haven't operated in in the past, but it really is a natural extension of what we do. We fundamentally believe in the Internet and we use the Internet to support our customer base today...It is probably not as heralded as some of our competitors but we are making some huge investments in terms of the Web and the Internet."
But BT and other Net providers will probably not experience that much heat from Gateway.net, as the firm is only offering the service to Gateway customers. "You can't hook up to Gatway ISP without being a Gateway customer. Our goal is to be one click to the Internet, you set up your PC and the Internet is there for you," says Maloney.
In the longer term the main gain for Gateway will be the creation of a potent, two way communications channel with its customers. "We know what they (our customers) look for, we know what type of information they need, as one of our customers we can provide all of that online on an ongoing basis, we can bring them the kind of content they want to see, because we talk to hundreds of thousands of our customers every day," adds Moloney.
Existing Gateway owners will be able to switch to the new service if they so desire.