HP's 'Smart Office' Initiative for SMBs: Phase Two

By Patricia Fusco | Posted March 22, 2004

Hewlett-Packard is highly adept at delivering IT solutions direct to the enterprise, but in order to deliver comparable products and services to smaller businesses, HP knew it needed to retool.

Six months ago, HP launched its $750 million "Smart Office" initiative, a plan devised to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with HP products and services, in tandem with its global network of local service providers. Half a year later, it looks likes HP's SMB outreach strategy is working, so the company is expanding its entire SMB portfolio.

All About Trust
HP's investment in positioning itself as a "trusted advisor to the SMB Market" is paying off in the form of a growing global network of local solution providers — 1,100 in the U.S. alone and 10,000 worldwide — and a growing portfolio of new products, services, solutions tailored to fit small- and mid-sized businesses. HP's investment is also paying off in terms of market share.

According to IDC, HP continues its lead as the No. 1 overall SMB hardware vendor of PCs, servers and printers with 19.6 percent market share in the U.S. HP is also the global SMB market leader with 16 percent share in PCs, 32 percent in industry standard servers, and 43 percent in laser and inkjet printers. While HP's market share is impressive, vendor image is everything.

In February, HP received top SMB vendor ratings from Gartner Research, whose analysts contend that HP's Smart Office products and services are well positioned to serve SMBs. As a result, Gartner forecasts that HP will experience significant growth in the SMB market. Chris Ogburn, HP SMB America team director, said trust is one of the reasons HP tops the list of SMB vendors.

"The Gartner rating cites HP's entire Smart Office product line and supporting organization as 'strongly positive' or 'promising,'" Ogburn said. "This just affirms HP's expanding presence of products and solutions for the SMB market. We've got momentum in the market and that's a strong validation of the investment HP is making in the SMB space."

Gathering Momentum
As HP gathers in Los Angeles this week for its Americas Partner Conference, bringing together new reseller recruits and established value-added business partners, there's a lot to celebrate. So how does an IT vendor of this caliber trump such accomplishments? By releasing a slew of new SMB-focused products and services.

"There are three pillars driving the next wave of our Smart Office strategy," Ogburn said. "We want to provide SMBs with access to IT expertise, build reliable products and solutions for the SMB market, and make this technology easy to own so they can focus their energy on managing their core businesses."

For HP, access to IT expertise is all about providing enhanced online and telephone support to partners and small businesses alike. HP wants to provide its reseller partners with the resources required to better serve small businesses. And HP wants to provide small businesses direct access to IT experts, so these businesses can make better technology decisions.

HP's "Expertise Centers" provide a variety of online tools, live chat capabilities, consultative services and educational resources. The first Web destination of this type was setup last September for SMBs seeking printing and imaging know-how.

Now, HP is extending its IT expertise into other areas. At EMEA, the HP Wireless and Mobility Expertise Center Web portal, customers can access educational articles and information about upcoming wireless road shows. In North America, HP's no-fee online Learning Center helps customers better understand new technologies. The Web site is a collection of more than 1,600 articles and online guides, and also offers training programs, tips, and tricks of the trade.

For HP's partners, there is the PartnerONE Unified Support Network, which provides resellers with access to local experts so SMBs can tap into HP's deep technical expertise a little closer to home. Ogburn said HP is ramping up these key sales assistance centers to extend access to the company's IT expertise.

"Our technology exports are focusing on very specific areas where SMBs say they need the most help. This includes making the most of wireless mobility, improved document management capabilities with our imaging and printing products, and server and storage technologies," Ogburn said. "We can bring experts on the phone and walk customers through an IT assessment, make product recommendations, prepare the purchase, schedule to integrate the system, and even finance the deal. We make it a lot easier for SMBs to make smart choices, and that's important to our partners, too."

SMB IT Toolbox
Since September, HP has released a slew of new products and services for SMBs. Ogburn said these products are not enterprise-class solutions that have been dumbed-down for smaller businesses, but IT tools that have been rebuilt from scratch. "When it comes to personal productivity in the workplace, HP has released two essential Smart Office products," Ogburn said. "This includes small-business favorites from HP's Compaq lineup of notebooks, desktops and workstations."

The Compaq Business Notebook nx5000 is a fully functional $1K-ish portable computer that features an Intel Centrino chipset and battery life of up to 9 hours. The Compaq Business Desktop dx2000 — a micro-tower system that lists just below $400 — is a full-featured desktop PC that provides SMBs with a balance of price, performance and quality needed for basic word processing, database, spreadsheet and presentation preparation.

For a better business infrastructure, HP has extended its StorageWorks Modular Smart Array family to include support for low-cost Serial ATA drives (define). The move puts low-cost SAN solutions (define) within the reach of smaller businesses. HP has also retooled its StorageWorks DAT 72x6 tape autoloader to include its "One-Button Disaster Recover" system, making server back up and recovery systems easier for SMBs.

Speaking of small business servers, HP recently introduced the ProLiant ML110, an affordable entry-level server with basic networking capabilities available for about the same price as a desktop PC. And to support wireless mobility in the small office, HP will soon make its ProCurve 700wl series switches available to the SMB market. A product placement that brings security, manageability and cost savings to smaller local area networks by allowing companies to "go wireless."

When it comes to printing and imaging for SMBs, HP is quick to tout its multi-function devices as a big part of its Smart Office lineup. The HP Officejet 9100 series of printers are all-in-one devices — printers, scannes, fax machines and copiers. These inkjet-based document management systems that can serve workgroups of up to 15 users for under $1,000. And the HP LaserJet 3000 series consists of four new laser-based monochrome printers that produce good-looking documents, and take up very little office real estate. Prices range from $299 to $699, which offers small businesses not only a small footprint, but also room to spare in smaller IT budgets.

New to HP's small business lineup of printing and imaging products is its "Smart Printing Supplies" service. Designed to work together as a total printing system, HP Smart Printing technology enables HP printers to speak directly with HP print suppliers. This allows small businesses to monitor their print jobs and printing supply levels, which can be set up to automatically order new supplies over the Internet.

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