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The much talked about birth of the free PC need not spell the death of the PC reseller, this morning's delegates at the Integrator Forum Europe 99 were told. But assemblers will need to change and become more like service providers if they want to profit from the future. Using the analogy of the mobile phone industry, ZD Market Intelligence director Mike Daly said whoever delivered service would benefit, despite no margin being made directly on the hardware. "Where cell phones are free, other services can provide enough revenue to cover this cost," he said. "A service provider can use a PC to sell ecommerce. And this relationship is the most important for the customer - who do I have the relationship with for my mobile, Nokia or the service provider?" In the same way, the brand of PC was not as important as the reputation of the service provider, he said. And the people who would suffer would be slow moving vendors and resellers, or companies with poor customer relations. "If 30 to 40 per cent of PCs were supplied free, as could happen, technology and pricepoints would cease to be an issue. "Customer relationships are the key, and this is something few vendors have," said Daly. ®

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