Dell is considering giving away its PCs as part of an internet subscription deal to its customers.
Details of the offer have not been released, although it will be similar to a mobile phone or cable TV subscription offer. Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell, confirmed the scheme was under consideration in a meeting with analysts last week.
The deal will revolve around selling Dell internet and value-added services to users with the PC being supplied free or heavily subsidised. At present, the deal is only planned for a US launch.
Dell added that the manufacturer was looking at which services it would include with the PC. 'You will be seeing us do more to make the PC look like a cable TV subscription in terms of a financial product,' he said.
Packard Bell already operates a similar strategy in France called Planetis.
But Graham Hopper, managing director of Packard Bell, said: 'As a model, it is viable in some areas but not in the UK. The culture here is increasingly free internet so there would be no additional service to sell to make a profit.'
He added that in the US, the model could work because internet usage was subscription-based. He concluded: 'It's down to how the package is wrapped up - is the user actually getting anything for free? The answer is no.'
But Jeremy Davies, analyst at Context, claimed: 'It could work in the UK, because it has worked in other areas - we are used to the rental model and easily embraced the mobile phone model.
'Nothing is for free, but it will be attractive to a sector of the population and would increase PC penetration. It is a viable model for the next few years until internet appliances kill off that use for the PC,' he added.
Other companies considering the strategy include IBM, Compaq and UK company Emachines.
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