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Dell’s channel tyre-kicking stepped up a gear this week when it emerged that Carphone Warehouse is offering one of the vendor’s laptops as part of a broadband deal.

CPW is tempting customers onto its AOL Broadband service with the offer of a free Dell Inspiron laptop, and wireless router. All customers have to do it sign up to a 24 month contract at £19.99 a month.

A quick skim of Dell’s website throws up a similar PC priced at £399, but no mention of the Carphone promotion. Neither company were around this morning to elaborate on what other promotions may be in the pipeline.

According to the Wall Street Journal, customers will get a voucher for the free laptop, and will be able to upgrade to swankier models if they wish. The firms are still debating who will actually hold the stock when the deal goes live in September.

After a rather nasty few years, which have seen it lose both the number one PC spot and quite a lot of senior executives, Dell has recently succumbed to self-doubt, and been re-examining its (proclaimed) direct only business model.

Industry watchers have long questioned how it could expand its share in the SMB and consumer markets, not to mention emerging markets, while religiously sticking to the direct only model.

In May, Michael Dell admitted, "we have not done as much in the channel as we probably should have - certainly not as much as we could have. So now we're going after it."

This was swiftly followed up by confirmation that it was considering a channel program in Europe.

In practice, this has meant tie-ups with Walmart and BestBuy in the US, and the insistence that it already works with resellers in Eastern Europe.

In fact, the company has always worked with VARs, but chose not to advertise the fact. And, from the VARs’ point of view, Dell had a tendency to blow hot and cold.

However, its corporate mid-life crisis seems to have prompted it to woo the channel anew, in the corporate equivalent of a straying spouse croaking “You Were Always on my Mind.” ®

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