Dell Computer Partners with @Home


After last week's deal between @Home Network and Dell
Computer Corp., the term "cable-ready" no longer applies only to televisions.

Dell and @Home said they plan to form a "comprehensive
marketing and technology alliance," so that consumers who order custom-built personal
computers from Dell can specify that they come equipped to handle cable-delivered
high-speed Internet access.

The partnership marks the first such deal between a PC
manufacturer and a high-speed cable Internet-service provider, although those involved
said more are likely to follow soon.

And Dell has already announced similar arrangements with
several telcos across the country to provide DSL-compatible (digital subscriber line)
equipment to consumers within certain service territories.

Dell is offering the high-speed-connectivity option as part
of its "ConnectDirect" initiative, which, a company spokesman said, was designed
to give users personalized access to the Internet.

Instead of shipping a 56-kilobit-per-second modem as
standard, for example, Dell customer-service representatives can check their database to
see whether other higher-speed services have been rolled out in a customer's
neighborhood, and they can suggest other options.

Cable modems won't be installed directly in PCs, at
least for the foreseeable future.

Under the program, which is scheduled to launch early next
year, Dell will still hand off the actual modem installation to cable operators.

Paul Salzinger, director of business development for @Home,
said the goal is to have Dell and @Home coordinate installation so that it's
scheduled within a day or so of the PC's arrival from Dell.

In addition to marketing cable-ready PCs to its customers,
Dell said it will also provide testing to ensure that all hardware and software components
of a new PC are compatible with the given operator's cable-modem technology before it
is shipped.

"Leading-edge PCs are the ones that will work best
with broadband Internet access," Dell spokesman Bill Robbins said, because
there's more demand on hard drives, video, processors and memory.

@Home Network will give Dell a commission for every new
@Home customer that it signs up.

"Dell is really good at one-to-one marketing,"
Salzinger said. "This product today is still a one-to-one sale."

Once other PC-makers deliver cable-ready products to
retail, Salzinger added, @Home's strategy will be to roll the product out on a
store-by-store basis. @Home is already marketing its service at a limited number of
CompUSA stores, although hardware is not part of that initiative.

@Home also announced last week that it will develop a
broadband portal called "Making Pictures" for its high-speed Internet customers.
The company plans to launch the portal to a number of digital imaging services by the end
of the year.

Cable's higher bandwidth will allow @Home users to
download digital pictures much more quickly than they otherwise could through traditional,
phone-based ISPs.