Dell Comes To Big City, Gunning For Small Business

In a meeting slated for Tuesday at the Reuters building in Manhattan, Michael Dell and others from the Round Rock, Texas-based company will hold court on a number of subjects, including new products and services it is tailoring at small and mid-size business deployments. The company has been in the midst of giving its product lineup a significant facelift, including notebooks with new designs and colors, and an offering of notebooks and desktops pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux -- a Linux lineup that company executives say they will broaden.

And not insignificantly, company executives are expected to tell small business customers how they may now engage with Dell easier through solution providers, part of its unfolding strategy of working with the channel to deliver solutions to the market.

Michael Dell will "be there to share news about upcoming Dell products and services, discuss things like technology trends and thier impact on small businesses, and to talk about how we'll continue efforts to make IT easier to manage and more affordable to small businesses," Dell digital marketing manager Lionel Menchaca said in an item on the web site.

The forum will give small and mid-sized business executives a chance to exchange questions and answers with the company founder and other executives. The no-holds barred session is the first of several Dell executives are planning to hold throughout the country to talk to customers about its road ahead. Dell plans to hold at least one separate town hall meeting for solution provider partners which has not yet been scheduled.

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Dell executives have said that a significant part of their strategy for working with solution providers is to increase its depth in sales to small and mid-sized businesses. In some corners, that strategy appears to already be working.

Vincent DiSpigno, co-owner of Webistix, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based value-added reseller, said his company has been increasing its sales of Dell products into small and mid-sized businesses this year -- and he characterized sales of the PC makers' products as good both before and after the company said in May that it would expand its channel strategy.

"We've done fairly well in our market selling Dell products to customers against HP, IBM -- everybody else," DiSpigno said. He noted that as a solution architect, customers most often go with the advice Webistix provides and, much of the time now, that's Dell. "The only time we would go in and not recommend a Dell solution is if they have four or five HP servers already installed," DiSpigno said.

DiSpigno said that because Webistix sells into accounts that had not previously been Dell-direct accounts, his company has not found channel conflict in dealing with the computer maker.

Dell is not without its challenges, though. The company is coming off a year in which it saw its sales, market share and profitability decline -- although Dell began to show signs of improvement during its most recent fiscal quarter. And Dell is trying to wrap up a series of investigations into the company's accounting and financial reporting from several years ago, probes that, the company says, have prevented it from filing mandatory financial reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Still, Wall Street has remained bullish on the company and earlier Monday shares of its stock hit a 52-week high, at $29.24.