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Dell hooks up with Skype

Marriage of convenience

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Computer giant Dell has announced that it has paired off with global internet communications company Skype in the latest tech sector marriage. News of the happy union comes hot on the heels of Dell's recent infatuation with Google, and search engine Yahoo's hook-up with Skype's parent company, eBay.

The Skype nuptials mean Dell's new entertainment-focused XPS range of laptops will be shipped with free internet and video phone software. Dell will offer to pre-load Skype on the XPS M1210 and M2010 laptops as part of an optional audio-video communications package which also includes an integrated rotating webcam, noise-isolation earbuds and mobile broadband capability. The M1210 features a 12.1 inch display and retails for USD1,300. The entertainment industry-focused M2010 features a 20.1 inch high-definition display and can be bought for $3,500.

The world's number one computer manufacturer also recently finalised a deal of undisclosed value with the world number one search engine, Google. The agreement means millions of Dell PCs will be pre-loaded with a Google task bar for web and PC searches, along with a co-branded homepage. The applications are accessible through a side pane on Internet Explorer 6.

The Google-Dell deal last week came on the same day that eBay and Yahoo! announced a three-year marketing relationship that effectively pits their resources against rivals Google and Microsoft. Under the terms of that agreement, Yahoo will provide graphical and search-related ads to eBay sites. In turn, eBay's PayPal secure payment service will become the default online payment service on Yahoo.

At the Dell-Google announcement, Google boss Eric Schmidt claimed eBay was not a rival but rather a partner whom he hopes will grow closer to Google in the coming years. He admitted eBay is likely to blossom based on its new partnership with Yahoo!

It is believed Yahoo! and Microsoft had been vying for search-bar representation on Dell PCs before Google eloped with the hardware company. Schmidt hinted Dell had been flirting with Google's software for six months prior to the union.

Commentators have generally been supportive of the fledgling Dell-Google relationship, but there was one objector in the chapel.

NPD Techworld analyst Stephen Baker told reporters: "It strikes me as a great deal for Dell, as they are basically selling dead space, and a bad deal for Google, as I doubt that they will collect many incremental eyeballs beyond the ones they have now."

With this latest hook-up between Dell and Skype the current plans are to package Skype software with the computers rather than have it pre-installed on the machines. Some analysts suggest that the decision to make the Skype package optional, unlike the pre-loaded Google set-up, could be to allay fears that Skype is a potential security vulnerability to corporate networks.

"As the leading notebook supplier, Dell is committed to delivering cutting-edge technology that provides voice and video connectivity virtually anywhere," Dell worldwide notebook marketing director Brett Faulk said. "Teaming with Skype, the trend setter in internet communications will provide our customers with the very best experience when reaching out and staying in touch with friends and family around the world."

"Dell customers will be able to experience the benefits of Skype optimised for their computing environment. This gives Dell customers a simple way to use the internet to talk to their friends and family from home, in the office or on-the-go," Skype business development director Don Albert said. "Dell represents a new distribution channel for Skype."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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