Packard Bell NEC is to join the ranks of direct PC vendors. The company last week announced its entry into the UK direct selling market, with sales targeted at small and medium businesses. NEC Direct will offer a full range of Packard Bell NEC desktops and notebook PCs, branded Direction, starting from an entry-level 200MHz Pentium PC for #649. Colwyn Munro, NEC Direct's general manager, said the direct selling model will allow NEC to compete in a price sensitive market. "The NEC brand is strong and associated with good technology ," he claimed. "The efficiency of the direct model can now bring the brand at a price the market demands." However, the company's decision to go for direct selling is "a bit odd", considering its success in selling to the consumer market through retailers such as Dixons, according to Jamie Snowdon, analyst with market research firm, Input. Success in penetrating the SME market through direct selling will depend on competitive pricing as well as the software and services the company includes with its products, he predicted. "Packard Bell NEC will have to make a big splash with cheap machines with software included in the price. Including MS Office is a must, so a good relationship with Microsoft is essential," he said. "Unless this happens I'm not sure the move will make much impact." Many major PC vendors are now seeing SMEs as an untapped market, according to David Clark, marketing director at PC wholesaler, Computer 2000. But the reseller channel still has a lot to offer in this arena, he claimed. "Services and support are essential. Resellers are often closer, and understand SMEs' needs better," he said. "The product proposition also has to be spot-on when software is included." NEC Direct is offering free phone-based technical support for the life of the system, with a free one year and next day on-site service on all Direction desktops. The company also has plans to go direct with servers too, but will wait for the outcome of the PC project. IBM: selling on Web IBM has announced plans to sell PCs over the Web in a move to compete with Dell's direct selling model. But, like Compaq, IBM will not abandon its distribution channel partners in the move. Instead, orders made on the Web site will be forwarded directly to regional distributors, where machines will be configured to customer specifications and tested on leaving the site. The service will be rolled out initially in the US, to arrive in the UK at an unspecified date in the future. Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq already sell over the Web.
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