Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina said Thursday HP plans to expand its $21 billion share of the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market with a $750 million investment in research and development, marketing, sales programs and services. The SMB market is expected to grow from $450 billion to more than $640 billion over the next six years.
Fiorina, HP's chairman and CEO, spoke to reporters at the Small Business Administration's National Entrepreneurial Conference & Expo by telephone from Palo Alto, Calif. Both Fiorina and John Brennan, SVP for HP's small and medium business segment operations, planned to attend the conference but cancelled their appearances with the pending arrival of Hurricane Isabel.
"HP is the worldwide leader in this customer segment," Fiorina said. "Technology can easily be the best tool in the box for small businesses or it can be the most useless tool. We plan to leverage our enterprise and consumer expertise for small and medium-sized businesses."
HP's "Smart Office Initiative" comes less a month after competitor Dell Computer trumpeted price reductions on its enterprise, SMB business and consumer products by as much as 22 percent. HP is also coming off a disappointing third quarter operating loss of $56 million, much of it attributable to slumping sales in its personal systems group.
"HP already has a rich and deep relationship with our network of partners and our range of solutions is going to become richer," Brennan said. "Dell is not focused on that."
Brennan said HP would be dedicating new resources and support to its partners that focus on the SMB market through its PartnerOne SMB networks.
As part of Thursday's launch, HP announced more than 100 different products and services aimed at the SMB market, including servers with pre-installed Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, an integrated suite that supports 75 users "right out of the box."
The company unveiled its Healthcare PC, featuring a "drop in the box" software bundle pre-installed with Microsoft Office 2003, part of a vertical industries package that will eventually include legal services, accounting and real estate packages.
Of its new products, Fiorina particularly praised the color LaserJet 9500 printer that comes with do-it-yourself marketing materials as "Kinko's in a box."
Fiorina said the company hoped to build on its "Imaging and Printing Expertise Centers" by developing SMB expertise centers around the world. In the U.S., HP already offers SMBs with a personalized Website and a dedicated small and medium business store, which allows businesses to order and track purchases of HP equipment.
SMBs will have a choice "care pack" services that include user applications support for more than 160 of the popular software applications, online backup and restore for multi-server platforms running Windows 2000-2003, and an extended warranty or basic maintenance agreement for HP ProLiant servers.
Multi-vendor financing and leasing programs will also be available directly or through HP channel partners. Fiorina said a special financing program would be available in the U.S. from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 that lets customers choose between a zero percent lease rate or no payments until 2004.
"We are launching a sustained effort to ensure the needs of this most important customer segment are understood and translated into products and services that exceed their expectations," Brennan said.
With Dell slashing prices in an attempt to attract small businesses to its direct-marketing channel and HP offering flexible financing terms through its business partners, one thing is certain now is a great time for small businesses to get busy buying some new hardware.
Adapted from internetnews.com.