Michael Dell's broadband vision

Michael Dell has the broadband bug.

High-speed Internet access will put his company into overdrive, says the founder of Dell Computer, who used the Internet to revolutionise PC sales. He explained his vision to a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology yesterday.

"Reports that the desktop computer era is over are premature," says Dell, commenting on the bold predictions of IBM CEO Lou Gerstner. It's simply not true that the market is saturated and PC sales have topped out, he says.

Super fast Web access will drive PC sales and streamline the way Dell sells PCs directly, Dell says.

"In the years ahead, we won't think anything about our telephone, pager, car, and TV being connected to the Internet. But what will happen to the PC is, it will play an even more important role in connecting all these devices," Dell says.

Increasing numbers of Internet-connected devices won't make us ditch our PCs; in fact, they'll just turn us into bigger data junkies, he says.

Companies will continue to replace PCs at least every three years, keeping sales steady. And the growth of high-speed broadband Internet access will compel consumers to make first-time purchases, Dell predicts. "The market will consume as much bandwidth as the telcos can deliver," he says.

More bandwidth will translate to more demanding computer and server applications, which will translate to new computer sales, he says. Growth at the high end of the market will be in high-speed servers, he adds, while at the low end the sales momentum will be with limited-functionality devices. PCs that can take advantage of high-speed connectivity will still account for the bulk of the market, he says.

With buyers, suppliers, and the factory floor enjoying ubiquitous and reliable communication, Dell's popular just-in-time delivery policy will allow it to excel, Dell says.

Broadband access will accelerate the flow of information, giving Dell more opportunities to add value, he suggests. The technology can be a tool that lets Dell become the ultimate broker of marketplace information, able to streamline communication between customers and suppliers, he says.

Dell sees this as the crucial advantage for any manufacturer, and one that can be adopted by diverse industries. He cites Dell research suggesting that the auto industry could save $US50 billion yearly by adopting the Dell direct-business model.

Broadband-enhanced multimedia applications are a golden opportunity to fine-tune Dell's online pitch to consumers, Dell says.

"Broadband only enhances the way you interact with Dell," he says. As bandwidth increases, Dell's Web site will become a 24-hour infomercial of sorts.

Dell says the site will host online conferences, broadcast programming on how to get the most out of your Dell PC, and -- most importantly -- push new system sales.

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Tom Spring

PC World

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