Dell Computer Corp. announced today that it will enter the networking fray, but only south of the border .

In a world dominated well-established vendors including Cisco Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp., the direct-to-market computer dealer said it sees a future in selling low-cost switches to small and medium-sized businesses.

Initially only available in the U.S., the Round Rock, Tex.-based Dell plans to ship smaller 16 and 24-port switches – which are used to connect PCs with other devices, such as printers — next month under the Dell PowerConnect brand. The company currently offers switches from 3Com, Foundry Networks Inc. and NetGear Inc., and Dell said those products will continue to be offered in addition to the PowerConnect line.

Dan McLean, research analyst with Toronto-based International Data Corp. says the low-cost networking products market is underserviced, and Dell has an opportunity to capitalize on it.

“It’s been ignored because the low-cost market isn’t lucrative and there is little value add in a sale,” he said.

McLean added that the lower-end switches usually require little skill to install and rarely require servicing, forcing companies into the higher-end equipment spectrum. Or, as McLean put it: “Sell me the highest performance product at the lowest price and I’ll buy and you’ll be successful.”

Dell Canada is at

IDC Canada is at