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New HP catalog targets direct sales

The computer giant is set to announce a new effort aimed at boosting its direct sales of hardware, software, storage and services to small and midsized businesses.

Hewlett-Packard plans to announce Thursday a new effort aimed at boosting its direct sales to small and midsized businesses.

In what the company said is the first push of its combined lineup of products to small businesses, HP plans to mail a new catalog to more than 2 million business customers. The catalog, which HP intends to offer quarterly, includes notebook and desktop PCs, servers, handhelds, storage, software and services.

Prior to its acquisition of Compaq Computer, HP sold directly only to its largest business customers, but the company is abandoning that policy. The company said it will now sell most products directly to all businesses, as well as through resellers.

HP resellers will still have exclusive domain on Unix servers and enterprise storage products, except for a few hundred of HP's largest accounts, which HP targets directly.

An HP representative said that those who receive the catalog will have the option of ordering through HP or a reseller.

"The (catalog) is a flexible resource that helps customers and resellers gain an overall appreciation of the depth and breadth of the new HP's technology portfolio," HP Vice President Robyn West said in a statement.

HP's "hard deck" policy of selling directly only to its largest customers was implemented early last year amid growing disaffection among its resellers. (The term "hard deck" stems from the aviation world, where it refers to an altitude below which planes are not allowed for their own safety.)

Although the program was credited with improving dealers' satisfaction, HP says fundamental changes in the industry require the company to offer products such as PCs and Intel-based servers directly.

"The economics of the PC industry have changed," HP spokeswoman Elizabeth Gillan said last month.