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More friends of small businesses

Mar 29, 20043 mins
OpenOfficeRoutersSmall and Medium Business

HP’s new initiative, a $99 PC

HP has always been committed to the small business market. It has a strong network of SMB resellers, and sells retail at the office and computer stores where SMBs shop. But its recently announced $750 million Smart Office Initiative takes it to a new level.

Although a group of HP marketing directors and vice presidents nearly buried me in marketing buzzwords (“better ownership experience,” “we’re delivering solutions,” “smart printing”), I managed to translate and discovered some pretty good points.  

“Ease of ownership” now includes financing options and flexible payment plans. Small businesses need cash flow, and this may help.

There are now 2,300 resellers in the PartnerOne SMB Network, meaning local dealers can help neighboring small businesses get their systems up and running. HP is also creating a vast database of “partner profiles” so potential customers can know the strengths of each dealer. Whether HP corporate stands behind every dealer’s self-description will be interesting to see. At least HP doesn’t limit the brands of products those dealers sell to customers referred by the program.

New  products rolled out as  part of the push include several new all-in-one printers priced from $299 to $699, and a laptop with 15-inch screen and an all-day battery for $1,199. With a name that sounds stolen from Hasbro, HP is introducing My First Server, a new ProLiant line starting with model ML100. Entry-level storage arrays put managed, high-performance storage systems into the SMB price range as well.

To “deliver solutions” HP is bundling Microsoft’s Windows 2003 Server software to grab the upgrade business of the nearly 1 million Windows NT 4 boxes still used as file and print servers. With the price and complexity of Windows 2003 Server, HP dealers will be smart to stock a few server appliances for customers wanting to avoid Windows server management.

Last, HP and Intuit have made a deal to “jointly market” QuickBooks. This should fit well into HPs product packages aimed at health care, real estate, accounting, legal specialties and other vertical markets.

Will any of this revolutionize small business? Probably not, but it can’t hurt.

Saving money always makes small (and large) business owners happy. Finally, a brand-new, complete, ready-to-run PC for $99.99 retail has hit the market. Fry’s Electronics put this product above the fold of its Dallas-area newspaper insert on Friday, March 19.

Labeled “AMD Athlon XP Processor Internet Ready Multimedia PC,” the system specs are an Athlon XP 1400+ processor, 128M bytes RAM, 40G byte hard disk, 52x CD-ROM drive, 56k modem and Lindows Linux. The photo shows a floppy drive, keyboard and mouse, but no speakers.

Since I’ve played with Lindows 4.0, I’m guessing this PC has the newer 4.5 version. The base Lindows 4.5 operating system package includes OpenOffice 1.0, Web browsing, instant messaging and e-mail clients, and a variety of other tools and utilities. This Linux operating system compares favorably to Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Office combined.

This isn’t the computer to edit streaming video on, but it will do  same work of 98% of corporate PCs. Fry’s advertised one per customer and guaranteed at least 80 in stock per store.

And the $99.99 price comes with three magic words: no rebate required.