The new system, called Enterprise Solutions, also provides glimpses into HP's future technology and helps provide 24-hour technical support. The plan dovetails with the firm's e-services effort to derive revenues from other companies' need for Internet commerce products hardware and services.
HP's online system follows a similar plan that Compaq Computer began offering last year, a fee-based service called Active Answers. ActiveAnswers and Enterprise Solutions now have the potential to bypass some of the third-party companies that configure and buy computers for other firms, connecting them to their customers without relying on resellers.
Whether resellers of HP equipment become irked by Enterprise Solutions will depend largely on whether the company undercuts their prices and on how the companies are folded into the Internet system, Dataquest analyst Jerry Sheridan said.
But overall, he believes that the plan is a good idea. "Anything that aids corporate clients in ordering their required hardware would be seen as a benefit," Sheridan said.
For example, early access to HP's coming technology will help customers make better long-term decisions and help HP design and test the new equipment before it's available to everyone.
HP's new program lets customers configure and buy its HP 9000 Unix servers, along with accompanying storage products and services. In addition, customers will be able to track their orders.
HP plans to expand the service by the end of the year so it includes the sales channel.