Compaq Computer will launch the new services along with its 600-MHz Pentium III-based small-business Prosignia PCs.
PC makers including IBM and Dell Computer are racing to deliver Internet-based services for small businesses. IBM, for example, offers Web-based advice for small businesses including sales and marketing information, research, and customizable Web pages.
Compaq is striving to maintain its No. 1 status in this segment. It sank to No. 3 in U.S. small-business shipments in the first quarter of 1999, compared to a year earlier when it was No. 1, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). The market is estimated at about $50 billion in the United States and close to $140 billion worldwide, IDC has said in the past. The market is also growing at a pace that is about three times the information technology market in general, according to a variety of research.
The new communications center will offer an integrated suite of unified messaging services via a Web browser. One of the services, called Message Center Lite, provides voicemail, fax, and e-mail in a central location. For $14.95 a month, users can get regular Message Center, which will steer messages into their own Pop3 mailbox. Email can be read over the phone as well.
"You can't compete with just a box in this space," said a Compaq spokesperson.
"This is really application hosting," he added, referring to Internet-based software and services that are driven wholly from the Web site.
The Compaq Telecommunications Center is powered by TelePost, a company that provides business communications services.
Other services that will be available for a 30-day trial include a data backup service and a service called Briefcase, which offers file sharing, email, an address book, a task list, and a calendar accessible from any computer on the Internet, Compaq said. Other fee-based services include Web-based presentation and conference call centers.
The new Compaq services will be bookmarked in the Web browser shipping with the new Prosignia and will also be accessible through a dedicated key on the keyboard that ships with these models.
Compaq also unveiled a new look to its Online Services that incorporates an enhanced user interface, as well as increased efficiency in finding and buying available products.