Dell Computer announced that its top European executive had stepped down at the same time as it launched its Dellnet 'free' Internet access service in France, following similar moves in the UK and Germany.
The PC supplier said the resignation of Jan Gesmar-Larsen was due to 'personal reasons', but that he would be replaced by John Legere, president of the firm's Asia-Pacific region.
Europe is a critical market for Dell, but first quarter revenues in the area fell short of expectations, growing only 29 per cent compared to 62 per cent in the year ago quarter.
The company's decision to launch Dellnet in France, however, comes as Dixons has started hinting at a possible expansion of its rival Freeserve service into Europe. The unit is expected to go public as early as this month.
Dellnet provides users with Internet access, but charges them no monthly fee or subscription charge, simply the cost of a local phone call while they dial into the service.
In France, Dell has partnered with Excite to provide French language news and content for its portal and has taken on Cegetel to provide the necessary telecoms integration. But it plans to roll out the service across the rest of Western Europe during the second half of this year.
France may prove a tough market for free Internet access providers, however, because France Telecom is one of the few European telecoms carriers to provide unlimited Web access for a flat monthly rate.
Dell started offering Dellnet in the UK this May, joining a host of companies that followed Dixons' initiative.
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