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Dell to Offer Internet Access With Cheap PCs

After years of staying out of the cheap PC game, Dell Computer Corp. jumped into the fray Tuesday with a sub-$1,000 PC that includes one year of free Internet access.

The subsidy plan includes 150 hours of Internet access a month with additional hours priced at $1.50 each. Computers included in the offer start at $959.

Dell also Tuesday launched Dellnet.com, a new portal created for the PC maker by Snap.com. The portal offers free e-mail, shopping, portfolio tracking and customized news and sports. Dellnet also includes links to Dell Auctions, access to hardware and software through Gigabuys.com, Dell's online superstore, and online customer support.

Dell said it patterned its Internet strategy after its booming PC business, which is growing at five times market rate, and expects customer loyalty combined with pricing and bundling to make its Internet plans a success.

"Dell's advantage in the consumer market is its ability to maintain a direct relationship with the customer," said Paul Bell, senior vice-president and general manager of Dell's home and small business group. "With Dellnet we provide a single point of contact for personalized products and services to build a lifelong customer relationship."

Dellnet will also feature 20 megabytes of online backup service from AtBackup and remote access to computer data.

The Dellnet site also offers personal Web page development tools from Homestead.com, digital music software from MusicMatch, and tutorials on digital photography from Kodak.

MusicMatch Inc. will bring MusicMatch Jukebox 4.0 to the portal, with its integrated MP3 music management software program. Users can organize digital downloads into a database on their PC.

Dell first rolled out the PC-bundled Dellnet service last month in Europe, going up against free ISP services from Freeserve and Microsoft. The PC maker teamed with British Telecom and Excite for the European version. Dell cited pricing structure differences as the reason for separate launches.

Dellnet will have 56K access speeds, and Dell is exploring options with cable and high-speed services.



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