HP revamps business PCs

On Monday, at least, it was business as usual at Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd., as the company sidestepped the sturm und drang of its recently announced merger with Compaq Computer Corp. to demonstrate its latest lines of business PCs and accessories.

Beyond the two-tone colouring and sleek lines of the desktop PCs, and the appeal of the pedestal-mounted monitors, the major themes of HP’s pitch were stand-alone and network manageability, ease of service and repair, and fewer “desk visits” for IT managers.

The main products introduced included the phone book-sized e-pc 40, and the more traditionally styled Vectra vl420 as part of the new “Professional” line of higher-end machines, and the Vectra xe310 of the less expensive “Essentials” line.

The new machines also served to demonstrate the latest version of HP’s Toptools, a device management solution that allows remote diagnostic access throughout a network, and the user-oriented diagnostics tools e-Buzzer and e-Diagnostics, both of which ship free with the new units.

Despite the current atmosphere of belt-tightening and gloomy economic forecasts, Daniel Reio, HP Canada’s business manager for desktop PCs, said companies should do a cost-benefit analysis and see the long-term advantages presented by the new hardware.

“Not only will [buyers] get more horsepower and make their users more productive, at the same time they’re going to get a fleet of diagnosis and management tools that will decrease their total costs of ownership – it may turn out that, at the end, they’re not paying that much more to have these new PCs,” Reio said.

Since most organizations choose to replace aging PCs rather than upgrade them, and the install base in Canadian business – much of it purchased in anticipation of Y2K – is getting a bit old, this is actually not a bad time to launch a new line of computers said John Stanisic, research manager for PCs with Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada.

Stanisic said he likes HP’s message about savings through ease of management and service, but explained that it can be a tough sell to the bean counters.

“Whenever we do surveys in Canadian business, Dell (Computer Corp.) is always seen as the price leader. For end users the thing that seems to resonate is acquisition cost, because that’s easy to understand. For HP to be successful with the e-pcs they have to push the overall total cost of ownership message, because that’s somewhere where they can actually differentiate themselves from a Dell,” Stanisic said.

Built from only four swappable modules contained in a locked box that also seals off its ports, Reio called the e-pc line an innovative and cost-effective alternative for either the HP install base, or new enterprise customers looking to acquire Intel Celeron, or Pentium 4 speeds, and also meet the minimum requirements for Windows XP.

“The Edmonton public library is outfitting all of the branches of its library with e-pc devices, not only internally for themselves, but for any public area where they have a PC set up because of the security inherent in the product – so there are some situations where the e-pcs have become the replacement PC when there’s no need for a classic PC design,” Reio said.

Processing speeds and cost-benefit analyses aside, the topic that really of prime concern to both HP customers and industry-watchers – the effects of the big merger – remained largely in the background yesterday as staff members focused on the matters at hand.

“Obviously there’s still a lot to be done when it comes to the whole merger – there’s really no way to tell what will happen,” Reio said. “But for now,” he added, “Compaq still remains a competitor of ours and we’ll still be fighting them up until the merger is completed.”

HP’s e-pc 40 with the Intel Celeron processor, Vectra vl420, and Vectra xe310 are available starting Oct. 1. The e-pc with the Pentium 4 processor will be available before the end of the year.

Prices start at $1,021 for the Celeron e-pc 40, $1,875 for the e-pc 42 with Pentium 4, $1,953 for the Vectra vl420, and $1,087 for the Vectra xe310.

HP Canada is at http://www.hp.com/country/ca/eng/welcome.htm

IDC Canada is at http://www.idc.ca/