CUPERTINO, Calif. -- As the economy begins to ride out and recover from the recession, computer giant Hewlett-Packard sees that small businesses, particularly in the U.S., are ready to cautiously resume spending on IT.
At a media event here, HP (NYSE: HPQ) officials briefly detailed a few new product offerings, but spent the bulk of their time talking about the company's expanded efforts to win more of the multi-billion-dollar small business market.
HP also hinted at an upcoming cloud computing announcement aimed at small business, but gave few details. "Looking to the future, we're seeing strong growth and opportunity for a Web-empowered ecosystem that will connect your computers, printers, your iPhone, whatever, to retail partners," Todd Birzer, a marketing manager with HP's printing and enterprise solution group, said. "This will be an HP cloud, but I'm not going into details today."
On the product side, HP made several announcements it said should appeal to budget-minded IT buyers in the SMB space. The company said it has partnered with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) to provide unified communications products designed to bring more collaboration and communications options to SMBs including Microsoft's SharePoint server.
"There's a driving, pent-up demand for IT infrastructure among small businesses in the U.S.," said Chad Thompson, analyst with AMI Partners, who spoke at the event.
Using HP's financing arm, an SMB could acquire a network of computers, servers and software for as little as $2,500 a month, according to Duncan Campbell, vice president of worldwide marketing for converged infrastructure and enterprise storage at HP.
"The other thing is that we can break this whole UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration) down into bite-sized chunks that make it easier for SMBs to execute on, just getting what they need," said Campbell.
Product announcements included the HP V1410 Switch Series, an extension of the HP's ProCurve 1400 family with simplified management and what HP said is lower cost plug-and-play connections. The V1410 is available pre-configured with eight-, 16- and 24-port options and a choice of wall or rackmount options. The V-series also includes a lifetime warranty and a next-business-day replacement policy.
HP has broadened its range of networking products deeper in the SMB space following its purchase of 3Com.
On the storage side, HP unveiled the StorageWorks X310 Data Vault that it said is designed for SMBs with limited IT staff. The system's interface is based on Microsoft's Windows Home Server OS to simplify installation and management.
Data Vault offers internal expansion up to 7 terabytes and up to 15 TB when connecting to external drives using the eSATA and four USB ports on the system. HP said clients can share local and remote files through a custom URL that is accessible from any Web browser. The system also offers daily automated backup for up to ten PC or Mac clients.
HP didn't have any specific printer product news but claims it's doing more to help SMB's understand and even market their green initiatives.
HP's Sustainability Reporting Tool uses a series of industry guidelines to help SMBs track and report on gains they've made in saving energy and walks them through the process of both reporting and creating a presentation of the results.
"Companies can report these findings to investors, customers and employees," said Birzer. "It's the kind of thing consultants do for large companies that small businesses haven't been able to do."
Birzer said that in some ways the downturn has been good for HP's printing business for SMBs because more of them decided to print in-house versus going to copy shops and other outside production facilities.
"You can realize significant cost-savings on small print runs doing them in-house," he said. "And our research shows you can be more effective with marketing materials you print in-house because you can, for example, customize brochures for each tradeshow, rather than printing once in bulk."
HP has a Web site that includes more details on its SMB product announcements.