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Tech Industry

HP tries its hand at Net consulting

The computer maker introduces an online consulting services program, despite the failure of many others in the industry.

Hewlett-Packard introduced an online consulting services program Tuesday, despite the ongoing downturn in the industry.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer maker said Tuesday that the program provides business customers with access to Web-based tools, as well as HP remote and traditional consulting services.

HP's decision to expand its services comes as consulting service providers have fared poorly during the past year. Bigger technology companies, including Novell and Microsoft, have launched professional services divisions and snagged clients from the smaller consultancies.

Meanwhile, even consulting giants like Accenture and others have been forced to slash jobs as demand for their services withers.

"The market has been challenged lately and is definitely filled with a lot of players already, but HP is trying to find new revenue streams and broaden its offerings beyond just product," said Preston Dodd, an analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix. "This also allows them to get a foothold in companies that aren't otherwise HP product customers. It could be a Trojan Horse move."

But HP may be expecting the market to turn around at some point. In fact, the company points to research by IDC, which expects the market to grow to $6.4 billion in 2004.

IDC analyst Anna Dilenko said she believes HP may face some of the challenges facing traditional consulting service companies, but not all.

"This is an important move for HP because it is exploring the new delivery model of online consulting," she said. "This is something they have been interested in for sometime. It is a new opportunity for them as their product market matures."

The program, HP Online Consulting, offers companies Web delivered services in the areas of security, storage, team development and supply chain management. The services connect customers with more than 6,000 HP consultants over the Internet.

Among the first offerings available through HP Online Consulting are security services including eSecurity Scan, which conducts an online security assessment that identifies weaknesses in systems and provides a step to fix problems. eSecurity Alert provides information about vulnerabilities on IP-based networks, while HP Guru helps customers get answers to their security questions from HP field consultants.

Danilenko said HP "is making the right move" by opening up new sources of revenue beyond just its line of products. The company "beat the challenge of being perceived as a product-focused company by adopting the online consulting delivery model that targets companies with workers on the go rather than just the technology executive."