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HP hones in on SMB opportunities

HP targets small-biz opportunity with SMB Elite partner designation, remote support, new printers and discounts.

CUPERTINO, CALIF. -- Hewlett Packard launched an array of products, discounts and services for small businesses based on the belief that, in this recession, SMBs represent a bigger growth opportunity than enterprise accounts.

Executives from all of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s business units were on hand here this week to say that VARs are the best entry into that business. HP cited an IDC projection that SMBs in aggregate will spend twice as much money on IT this year as big companies.

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Among HP's program and product enhancements is a new SMB Elite designation for HP VARs with expertise in SMB accounts; new inkjet printers; and additional discounts for server-and-storage bundles. Behind the push is HP's contention that companies with fewer than 1,000 employees will weather the recession better and recover from it faster than enterprise accounts.

The SMB Elite designation will be effective May 1 to partners that qualify by demonstrating product competencies and gaining required certifications. HP would not detail these qualifications. And all 25,000 HP U.S.-based partners can now use the company's deal registration capabilities, which were previously reserved for use by the top tier of HP partners.

Also new is HP Insight Remote Support, which gives the VAR-of-record free access to round-the-clock monitoring of a customer's servers and storage. This capability was initially available only to HP's enterprise customers. "This really is our genie in a bottle," said Duncan Campbell, vice president for midmarket accounts for HP's Technology Solutions Group.

HP's Total Care Business Solutions of ProLiant or BladeSystem servers and StorageWorks storage and ProCurve networking now are available at discounts of up to 47%.

Some VARs say that the SMB-focused move has been a long time coming from HP and other tech vendors. These vendors, the VARs said, tend to favor big enterprise partners with preferential discounts and other perks while ignoring the army of smaller partners. They said they hope HP's new SMB focus signals real change.

"I'd like to see more vendors engage smaller resellers," said Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner/Connecting Point, in Green Bay, Wis. "It's always been 'we'll take care of the big guys [partners], give them the co-op [dollars] and the prices.' But then how does the small guy grow?"

"I don't care if it's Cisco or HP or Sony, they haven't seen the value of the small guys," Chernick added.

Meaghan Kelly, vice president of channel sales development and strategies, Americas, for HP's Solutions Partners Organization, said the SMBs are a $68 billion IT market opportunity serving 6.3 million customers in the U.S. Of course, the total will include many small deals with many buyers and thus vendors must rely on partners to tap those accounts.

Chernick was particularly interested in the SMB Elite designation, although he had yet to hear all the details. He also is a fan of HP's Total Care Access Card that bundles discounts, free recycling services for printers and media, and other goodies. VARs can purchase the cards and then resell them to customers for a profit or dole them out to sweeten deals. List price for the new cards is $49 for what HP says is $1,000 in services.

"You can use the cards as a tool to make a sale," Chernick said. "The value of the recycling alone is worth more than the price of the card."

HP also inked a deal with USA.NET Inc. whereby HP partners can resell and relabel USA.NET's hosted Microsoft Exchange Server and SharePoint services to their own customers.

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