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Dell looks to show aspiring e-businesses the ropes

The computer giant is offering up its Net business know-how to companies looking to establish business-to-business e-commerce initiatives in their own industries.

Dell Computer is offering up its Internet business know-how to companies looking to establish business-to-business e-commerce initiatives in their own industries.

The computer giant yesterday said it has teamed with, an online purchasing, or e-procurement, service provider for the healthcare industry, to provide consulting on e-commerce network development, technical support and hardware to run the company's online purchasing services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In the past several months, Dell has made similar deals to help some of its traditional corporate customers in the healthcare industry, along with other industries looking to establish an online purchasing system.

"Many customers have asked us 'how do you do what you do, and how can you help us do the same?' " said Rob Crawley, a spokesman for the preferred accounts division of Dell. "(Business-to-business e-commerce) is what we're going to get into seriously this year."

Although not as glamorous as the business-to-consumer (B2C) market--the world of well-known names such as Yahoo,, eBay and America Online--the business-to-business market is expected to garner a much larger share of revenue generated through e-commerce.

Along with the healthcare industry, business-to-business marketplaces also are sprouting up in such fields as chemicals, automobiles, manufacturing, construction and pharmaceuticals. General Motors, Ford, Dupont and Chevron are among the larger corporations that have recently announced plans to build or participate in electronic marketplaces. They have partnered with such companies as Ariba and Commerce One, which make software that lets users buy and sell everything from office equipment to services online.

Shares in firms providing services and technology for business-to-business markets have soared in recent months. That's due in part to analysts who expect the market for commercial transactions to grow to $5 trillion by 2002.

The healthcare industry has seen much attention recently from business-to-business players. For example, in December, e-commerce company Chemdex said that it was set to acquire, a maker of software for delivering information about medical products and procedures, in an all-stock purchase valued at $115 million.

Chemdex in December also said that it and Tenet Healthcare, an operator of hospitals, have formed a new company to provide business-to-business e-commerce services to the healthcare industry. The companies will combine their healthcare and e-commerce expertise, existing buyer and supplier contracts, and key technology assets to provide services to the high-volume medical and related supplies market.

In addition, SAP in December teamed with to launch an online healthcare marketplace. The German software giant said, an online business-to-business healthcare services provider, will use SAP's marketplace to create a global exchange for the healthcare industry.

"empactHealth has their work cut out for them," said Pierre Mitchell, an analyst with AMR Research. "It's a very fragmented market with a lot of players. It's going to be hard to get established in the market."