SGI courts rivals’ customers with discounts

Silicon Graphics Inc. kicked off a new program this week designed to woo Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. customers to SGI’s camp with a host of discounts on hardware, consulting and training.

If their merger goes ahead, it’s likely to take HP and Compaq some time to organize their product strategy for the high-performance technical computing niche, SGI said. The firms are likely to focus on solidifying their mainstream Intel Corp.-based and Unix servers before refining a strategy for the engineering and graphics-intensive computing segments, which could allow SGI to grab a few HP/Compaq customers, according to Bob Bishop, chairman and chief executive officer at SGI.

“It will depend on HP and Compaq’s ability to stabilize themselves and make some kind of commitment to this market, but I think that is way down on their list of action points,” Bishop said in an interview.

To tempt HP and Compaq users to its side, SGI is offering companies working in the technical and creative fields free consulting and training services around its Irix operating system and servers based on RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors.

Depending on the size of a potential purchase, SGI will send representatives to customers using HP and Compaq equipment to perform hardware and software comparisons. In addition, customers who choose to buy SGI systems will receive free training for Irix administration as well as up to 20 days of support services.

“In the past, we have not offered this assistance package for making the port (to SGI) as painless as possible,” Bishop said.

SGI already offers discounts on its hardware if customers trade in gear from competing vendors.

Bishop claimed that a handful of customers have already switched over to SGI as a result of uncertainty caused by HP’s proposed acquisition of Compaq. He couldn’t provide customer names, however, and said no major deals have been completed yet.

“At this point and time, the deals are relatively minor,” Bishop said. “If they were big enough, we would make a big announcement.”