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September 23, 1998

DELL TIES UP WITH AT&T, EXCITE, AND SBC ON NET SERVICE

By CBR Staff Writer

Dell Computer Corp launched a new program Wednesday to simplify internet access for buyers of its Dimension PCs. The ConnectDirect initiative is comes as result of partnerships the PC maker has formed with AT&T Corp’s WorldNet service, Excite Inc and SBC Communications Inc. Dell said the initiative offers consumers and small businesses a quick and easy internet sign-on process and personalized web start pages which, through the integration with Excite, will offer customizable news content and direct links to Dell services, support and registration. The idea is to get the user online within roughly 15 minutes from the time the PC is taken out of the box, according to Dell. Customers can choose either Dell’s own InternetDirect cut-back browser, designed for first-time users, or Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer. For now, Netscape Communications Corp’s browser is out of the equation. Users can also choose which internet service provider they wish to use. Dell stressed that the deal with AT&T is non-exclusive and that it is in talks with other ISPs with a view toward bringing them into the fold. Announcements along those lines are promised in the not-too-distant-future. On the portal side, the agreement with Excite is described as preferred, meaning that, strictly speaking, it is non-exclusive but Dell said it has no plans in the works with other partners. The ConnectDirect program will also offer high-speed access through Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) services through the tie-in with SBC. The arrangement will see the Dell boxes equipped with ADSL modems and services. The two companies plan to begin implementation of the jointly-marketed service early next year in select cities in Texas and California. The deal with SBC follows an agreement Dell struck in May with US West and Cisco to provide ADSL-ready Dimension PCs later this year to customers in some cities in the US West territories. For the time being, ConnectDirect is available only on Dimension PCs, but should migrate to other product lines later this year. Dell says that, although it certainly remains a PC company, it sees itself becoming more of an internet company going forward. It claims to now do $6m a day in sales through its web site and hopes to be doing half of its total business that way by 2000. Service and support is being increasingly handled on-line, as well.

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