RealTime IT News

Dell to SMBs: The Vostro is 'Yours'

UPDATED: NEW YORK -- Big changes are sweeping through computer-selling giant Dell: new sales approaches, management changes, new strategies, and now, new product lines for small businesses.

The company today launched a new "Vostro" line of laptops, desktops, printers and other hardware focused solely on the smallest of the small business IT needs.

The offerings include Vostro notebooks 1000, 1400, 1500 and 1700. Prices start at $449. For desktops, the offerings are the Vostro 200 mini-tower or slim-sized case. Prices for those start at $319. The line includes the Dell 1320c color laser printer, which starts at $299 and a 19-Inch monitor (E198WFP) is priced at $229.

Michael Dell
Dell during a Q&A with tech press.
Source: Gene Hirschel

For the most part, Dell found himself addressing customer service gripes during a town-hall-style Q&A with customers here at the Reuters Building in Times Square. His comments sought to ease their concerns, but he noted that more work needs to be done.

"It's really just the beginning," said Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, during a launch event here. "We're making a serious investment in supporting small business customers but recognize that there's more for us to do."

Customers appeared to agree, and Dell ended up conducting some customer service of his own when some audience members aired their issues with the chief executive.

Mario Tolasano of New York said he had recently switched back to Dell servers and clients for his small law firm after leaving Dell for Toshiba and Sony over customer service. If it goes wrong this time, I'll know where to find you, he quipped about the customer service and support he expects from Dell.

Dell Vostro Desktop
The Vostro 200.
Source: Dell

Dell stressed the customer support in the latest Vostro launch to highlight the improvement the company is touting in its customer support. Dell also called the Vostro line (Vostro is Latin for "yours") a milestone in the company's strategy to reduce the cost, time and complexity of managing information technology for customers.

"We're cutting the time to set up a computer nearly in half. We're reducing the number of steps to connect to a network to six," compared to the competition.

Dell cited a survey of international small businesses, 75 percent of which named budget constraints as a major factor that limit their use of IT in their businesses. Another 80 percent said management discomfort with technology limits the use of IT in their business.

Dell Vostro 1400
The Vostro 1400.
Source: Dell

Sales for this line are via its channel partners or direct. Some 6,500 sales and service providers have been put onto the small business segment for this launch, Dell told the businesses gathered here, as well as participants who directed questions to him online.

Dell's other business lines, such as its Latitude notebooks and OptiPlex desktops, are still very much for sale, but are positioned for businesses that are a little bigger. Vostro is looking for sales with businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Dell has put 6,500 of its sales staff on selling the new lines, and is offering specific IT support to help customers get their machines up and running in less time.

The company is also offering free online backup of up to 10 gigabytes of storage and data backup for one year. It wasn't clear what the charges for data storage would be after one year or for more than 10Gb.

The launch comes during a major transition time for the company and its founder, who returned to his CEO role in January, after Kevin Rollins stepped down from the post.

It's also switching to retailing in stores in Asia, as well as selling some lower-priced lines in Wal-Mart, departing from its longtime direct-selling strategy.