HP tries to hide its pricing from customers and open-source competitors

Hewlett-Packard is fighting GroundWork over GroundWork's use of HP's pricing...to HP's detriment.

On October 13, 2008, Hewlett-Packard (HP) sent a complaint to an open-source competitor, GroundWork, asking GroundWork to stop revealing HP's "confidential" pricing. I have posted the letter below. What HP isn't correcting is GroundWork's contention that HP's IT monitoring software is considerably more expensive than that of its open-source competition.

Does HP think its pricing is really a secret? It's publicly available at GSA Advantage (albeit most GSA pricing actually reflects discounting of roughly 10 percent). Guess what? HP software costs a lot of money. Is anyone surprised?

GroundWork has been highlighting its cost advantages over HP's Operations Manager and Network Node Manager offerings for some time, declaring an 82-percent cost advantage over HP's products. This isn't news.

So why is HP sending letters to GroundWork (and InformationWeek, which hosted a webinar on the subject), demanding that its pricing be buried? According to a source familiar with the matter, it was apparently GroundWork's live webcast (registration here) on September 30, 2008, which roughly a dozen HP employees attended, that seriously rankled HP.

Why? Perhaps because the data presented starkly reveals just how pricey software like HP's can be.

As noted above, HP does not claim the pricing GroundWork revealed is wrong. It simply seeks to prevent disclosure of pricing, as well as attempts to police HP's own network of customers, partners and even employees. From the letter sent to GroundWork and InformationWeek:

During [the webinar] you referenced the Hewlett-Packard Company's ("HP") pricing and listed in your slide set the "HP Software BTO Pricing Guide, 2008" as the source of such information. HP's Pricing Guide is confidential information, is marked as such, and is not publicly available. Access to HP pricing information is limited to parties under confidentiality obligations to HP.

Fine. There are very valid reasons for maintaining such confidentiality provisions, but the fact of the matter is that GroundWork could easily have pulled the pricing information from the GSA Advantage website (and probably should have). The problem isn't the pricing information. It's that HP doesn't want its high prices used against it.

Is HP afraid of transparency? Presumably it can justify those high prices, so why is it worried? Here's the letter in its entirety. You be the judge.

HP demands that GroundWork stop posting HP's pricing Hewlett-Packard
Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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