Dell Looks to Entice SMBs with New Services

The OEM is looking to differentiate itself from IBM and HP in its pursuit of smaller businesses.

NEW YORK—Dell wants small businesses to know that it can offer more besides low-cost PCs.

At a July 10 event here to promote Vostro—a new line of desktops and notebooks specifically designed for businesses with one to 25 employees—Dell executives also rolled out new services designed for small-business customers.

In addition to the new services, Dell has lined up and trained about 6,500 customer representatives who will deal only with small businesses. The company will also eliminate so-called "trialware" from its new line of PCs, although the Round Rock, Texas, OEM will continue to offer its own software and other tools such as Google Desktop and anti-virus software.

These new services are meant to help those companies that lack a dedicated IT manager, said Karen Quintos, vice president and general manager of services for Dells SMB Group.

"A lot of what we are talking about today is a direct recognition of the pain points that affect our customers," Quintos said in an interview with eWEEK. "What we are hearing from our customers is that they want simpler solutions and they want solutions that are easier to maintain."

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With its new Vostro products and services, Dell is looking to compete again with the likes of IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which also offer hardware and services designed for SMBs (small and midsize businesses). These companies have become an increasingly important part of the IT market, and major OEMs are looking for ways to reach these potential customers.

Quintos said that what Dell is offering in terms of products and services are designed for SMBs and their specific needs. Vendors like IBM, Quintos said, try to take services developed for midmarket companies and scale them down for smaller customers.

"Our advantage is that we are able to take feedback from our customers and develop something like Vostro," she said.

The services that Dell will offer its small-business customers include Network Assistant, which allows users to set up and connect to a business IT network. The company is also offering a service called PC Tune-Up, which keeps track of the PC and will automatically perform maintenance functions such as a hard disk defragmentation and the removal of temporary and unwanted files.

In addition, Dell is offering DataSafe Online, which gives small businesses up to 10GB of remote storage through a secure Internet connection.

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All of these services, Quintos said, will be available through Dells direct sales program as well as through its growing channel partners and VARs that work with the company.

In a research note, analysts with Technology Business Research said that Dells new hardware and services are meant to reverse the companys fortunes—it has lost PC market share to HP for the past year—while expanding its customer base both within and outside of North America.

"We believe that Dell is looking to become a trusted partner for SMBs who do not have in-house IT," TBR analysts wrote July 10 after the New York event. "The company will offer Vostro products both direct to customers and via distributors, who can serve as Dells feet on the street. However, Vostro is one of several moves Dell is undertaking in an effort to return to its former position as the worlds largest PC manufacturer."

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