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By | Joe Fay 10th July 2007 16:04

Dell tries to squeeze into small business space

And pushes AMD kit on Intel co-branded website

Dell is sending a big love letter to the little people today as it looks to expand its customer base beyond price-chiselling mega corporations with a collection of hardware and services aimed at smaller companies.

While the hardware is not exactly groundbreaking and the services themselves don’t put much clear water between Dell and its competition, the announcement is notable for one thing – Dell has persuaded Intel to help it sell AMD powered laptops.

The newly minted Vostro brand appears on four notebooks aimed at SMEs, the Vostro 1000, 1400, 1500 and 1700, starting at £329. The bottom of the range machine runs on an AMD processor, while the rest run on Intel Core 2 Duos. Wireless broadband, in conjunction with Vodafone, is available as an option.

Two desktops, a mini and a slim tower, both running on Core 2 Duos, get the Vostro 200 badge. The company has committed to strip the bloatware from the machines, except for ISP and security software, which they say customers are still happy to have pre-loaded.

The hardware is rounded out with a 19 inch flat screen monitor, the £139 E198WFP, and a colour printer, the £179 1320c.

Even Dell would be hard-pressed to describe the hardware as anything more than bog standard, but it would argue that is not the point. Vostro, you see, is more than hardware – it’s a brand encompassing services as well. Just what SMEs have been waiting for, according to Dell’s research.

The services package includes a Data Security service, DataSafe, which will allow customers to backup 30GB of data. The password protected service will be priced at £19 to £38 per year.

Some twitchier customers might worry that their data might end up being stored in the soft of country where an unscrupulous government might want to snoop through it. Somewhere like the US, perhaps. Dell senior marketing manager, Peter Crotty, said European customers’ data would be kept within the EU.

Other services include Dell Automated PC Tune-Up, which will automatically keep customers machines running at an optimum level – when it is launched next month. Dell has also updated its support and warranty offerings for the program, and is offering a separate accidental damage policy.

Today's launch raises a number of questions.

Not least “what took you so long?” IT vendors have been proclaiming the SME to be their saviour for years now, so you’d think a company as smart as Dell would have put a bit more effort into turning them on to its kit earlier.

Also, given that the received wisdom is that many small firms like plenty of handholding, usually by a local dealer, we wonder be interesting how Dell proposes to pry SMEs out of the channel’s bony fingers. Particularly as it's trying to woo retailers in some parts of the world.

Lastly, we wonder how much long-term mileage there is in a separate SME brand, when the bosses of many small business will actually covet the shiny sexy stuff Dell is punting to corporates and don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do so.

Unfortunately, Dell’s execs all cleared off rather sharpish, so we didn’t get the chance to ask.

Still, we’ve got to hand it to Dell on one count.

The Vostro range will be flogged via a dedicated SME website, in conjunction with longtime partner Intel. But with AMD chips appearing in the range, doesn’t this mean Intel is underwriting Dell to flog its rival’s chips? Yes, indeed it does. Which, if nothing else, will give AMD something to chew over next time it tries to get the DoJ to give Intel an antitrust working over.®

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