Desktops

HP readies small-business push

The computing giant is set to unveil on Thursday a new suite of hardware and services aimed at small businesses, where overall sales could turn out to be quite big.

NEW YORK--Hewlett-Packard plans to renew its ties with small businesses this week.

The Palo Alto, Calif., computing giant is set to unveil a new suite of hardware and services aimed at small businesses, according to executives. It will tout the new products as simple enough to manage for small companies that don't have an IT staff, but with features that will also help the companies compete against larger rivals.

Small businesses typically have between one and 1,000 employees, meaning that individually they buy fewer PCs and consume less in the way of IT services than their larger competitors. But the sheer number of smaller businesses amounts to a large market for companies like HP, Dell, IBM and Gateway--all of which have programs that focus on the market.

"The things they want from us are reliable products, good service and a local touch," Jim McDonnell, vice president of marketing and sales for HP's Personal Systems Group, said at the TechXNY conference here.

HP plans to work with local resellers to deliver its new products, which will include a new line of small-business servers.

The company will also unveil the HP Integrated Work Center, a special platform that holds an HP Compaq d530 ultraslim desktop and provides an adjustable mount for a flat-panel monitor. The work center also includes a handle, allowing a person to tote the system around like suitcase. The new work center can rest on top of HP's new Desktop Access Center, a communications hub that includes a telephone headset, Bluetooth wireless, an optical drive bay and USB (universal serial bus) ports. The two new products will cost about $100 each.

The company will also offer a new set of services for small business that cover items such as computer repairs. HP is likely to expand that set of services over time.

As previously reported, HP plans to unveil the products Thursday at an event in Washington, D.C.

The small-business launch is the third major effort that HP has kicked off this year to raise its profile and increase sales. In May, the company outlined an "adaptive enterprise" strategy for large businesses. Last month, it launched nearly 160 new consumer products, including printers, cameras, scanners and notebook computers. HP is under pressure to improve sales in its PC and high-end computer businesses, both of which posted wider-than-expected losses last quarter.

The new small-business initiative will reaffirm HP's commitment to market, which makes up about one-third of its business, McDonnell said.

HP will deliver the products through its Partner One network of computer dealers. Since its merger with Compaq Computer, HP has offered much of its computing gear to small and midsize businesses via resellers. At the same time, HP has continued and, in some cases, expanded its direct sales efforts. Last year, for example, HP pursued small and midsize businesses through a specially tailored catalog. Although the catalog was geared toward boosting direct sales, HP noted that customers had the option of ordering gear either from HP or through a reseller.