UPDATE: HP makes SMB push with new services

Hoping to improve its standing among a group that provided almost 30 per cent of its revenue last year, Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled an expanded program of products and services for small- and medium-sized business (SMB) customers Monday at the HP Partners America Conference in Los Angeles.

Last September, HP, in Palo Alto, Calif. announced a US$750 million initiative geared at marketing and research and development efforts for the SMB market. Customer feedback since that announcement has led to the creation of new services packages that are delivered through HP’s partners or directly from HP services to SMB customers in North America, said M.L. Krakauer, vice-president and general manager of customer support business.

At the end of 2003, IDC Canada Ltd. surveyed about 900 SMBs and discovered that these companies don’t want enterprise solutions and are wary of offerings geared towards large businesses. As a result, any company that builds solutions and provides services particularly for SMBs will have a positive effect on that market, said Michael Hyjek, an analyst at IDC Canada in Toronto.

In Canada, HP announced a SMB Expertise Centre, a call centre that SMBs can contact to get information and advice about the best software and services for their organization, said Ken Price, director SMB marketing at HP Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

Price said the SMB market represents about $10 billion in spending per year, with about $4 billion on software and hardware and the rest on services.

That’s why the company has focused so heavily on providing not only new training opportunities for SMBs via the Web, but 24×7 support services, its Electronic Vaulting Service, support for Microsoft’s products and affordable new computers.

HP’s new SMB services include:

– HP Proactive Plus for SMB is a support program for HP servers running operating systems from Microsoft Corp. Customers can request help for five incidents over a one-year period for $1,645, and receive help for an additional incident if the service is ordered by July 31.

– HP Learning Curve provides unlimited access for one year to online resources such as instant chat with a technical support representative for $209. Access for an additional person is included for free if this service is ordered by July 31.

– HP IT Professional Help Desk for SMB allows customers to access Level 2 and Level 3 help desk support through HP’s professional services organization. For US$2,170, customers can seek help on up to five incidents, and can receive help on an additional incident if the service is ordered by July 31. Level 2 support generally requires a more advanced IT staff member, while Level 3 support is reserved for the most critical and difficult problems.

– HP Care Pack ELectronicVaulting Service offers continuous online back-up and bytle level data replication for HP ProLiant servers, starting at $299 a month for one year.

The company also announced the launch of two new notebook lines, including the desktop replacement HP Compaq Business Notebook nx9110 — which starts at $1,849 — and the nx5000 travel-friendly notebook which starts at $1,749.

HP has taken great strides in improving its relationships with the SMB market since its acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., said Helen Chan, an analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston. The company’s focus on improving its relationships with channel partners after that merger will help it a great deal in the SMB market, where companies prefer to purchase products from local resellers, she said.

“If you’re trying to sell technologies users haven’t used before, that requires consultative selling,” Chan said. Part of HP’s plan for the SMB market is to show owners of small companies who don’t have a technology background what the latest products and services can do for their business, and that’s hard to do without a strong partner program, she said.

HP thinks it has an advantage over its competitors such as Dell Inc. and IBM Corp. because of its close relationship with partners and its roster of technology experts ranging from imaging and printing to servers and storage, said Chris Ogburn, director of sales and development for HP SMB Americas.

SMB customers will pay more for products that come through partners who can help them set up and configure their new equipment, said Ray Boggs, an analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass. These customers don’t want learn the intricacies of network management, and will appreciate the value of service packages that allow them to implement IT products while keeping their main focus on their growing business, he said.

– With files from Cindy Watson, IT World Canada

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