What, Me Worry?

Dell Marketplace is dead, but Lante's consulting deal lives on.

Lante Corp. says it is not sweating. The recent demise of Dell Computers B2B e-market will not affect its relationship with the computer maker, which ranks among the Internet consulting firms largest customers, according to Lante.

Lante was the architect behind Dell Marketplace and hoped to integrate suppliers with the site. The short-lived marketplace, which mustered only three suppliers, debuted in October and closed earlier this month.

It was perhaps the most visible fruit of the five-year Internet consulting pact between Dell and Lante. Lante disclosed the consulting relationship, which the company says is worth at least $40 million, in late 1999 as the company prepared its initial public offering.

A spokesman for Lante says Dells decision to fold Dell Marketplace has no impact on the broader consulting deal, which he says includes "a lot of different projects." He notes that work stemming from Dell Marketplace has led to projects that are "arguably more significant" than the precursor deal.

"We have a multifaceted relationship with Lante," adds a spokesman for Dell. "We are shifting our strategy to being an enabler of e-marketplaces."

In one example, Dell and Lante, along with Microsoft, are collaborating on the Supplier Advantage program, which provides products and services to help suppliers link to B2B markets. The Supplier Advantage bundles were to be sold to suppliers of Dell Marketplace as a way to participate. Although that scenario will no longer play out, other customers have become interested in the offering.

The Dell spokesman says there have been sales of the Supplier Advantage bundles, but he declined to provide specific figures. Last year, a Lante executive said Supplier Advantage projects would start at $60,000, including servers, software and services.

Other areas in which Dell is working with Lante are B2B integration and e-business initiatives, according to the Dell spokesman.

Dell Marketplace, meanwhile, was conceived as a horizontal e-market where buyers, primarily Dell customers, could go to buy Dell computers as well as indirect goods, such as office products, from other suppliers. At the time, skeptics said there was little reason for Dell customers, who already spent over $16 billion in 2000 at the companys main site, to go to Dell Marketplace for additional products they could easily buy elsewhere.

Dell Marketplace was hosted by Dell, and used Ariba Inc.s Marketplace exchange platform and Exterprise Inc.s ActiveMarket application for adding value-added services from its suppliers. Three suppliers—Motorola, Pitney and 3M—were announced at launch. As it turned out, they were the only suppliers Dell signed up before the computer-maker decided to close the marketplace.

Like other Internet consulting firms, Lante is struggling. For its Q4 financial results, Lante beat Wall Street expectations by reporting a net loss of $8.5 million. That figure excludes amortization of deferred stock compensation, restructuring and write-down and income-tax provision.

Lante says it will close its Charlotte, N.C., office and lay off 40 employees.

Lante says its not sweating, but keep a close eye on its brow.