HP to hit Apple where it hurts

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HP to hit Apple where it hurts

The world's biggest PC maker will put the HP spin on a new range of products and services designed to take on Apple at its own game.

The company is gearing up to launch a range of new workstation and thin client products at its Global Partner Conference and Workstation event in Las Vegas this week. But it’s HP’s plans for the mobility market that will see it go into direct competition with Apple's MacBook Air and branded Apple stores.

HP suffered slow sales and partner defection over the last year in the Asia Pacific due to uncertainty around the future of its Personal Systems Group, thanks to former CEO Leo Apotheker’s announcement of the division’s possible sale.

The PC maker is looking to get back on track and take out Apple simultaneously with its ultrabook line of notebooks, as well as the introduction of “Total Care” customer centres similar in design to Apple’s in-store Genius Bar.

Last year's problems had a "turbulent effect on the business,” said Asia Pacfic’s PSG senior vice president Jos Brenkel. “We’ve now stabilised and made sure PSG is an integral part of HP.”

He said HP’s range of ultrabooks along with its Microsoft partnership for Windows 8 will “re-energise” the market and play directly into HP’s strengths.

HP sees Windows of opportunity

The company is heavily relying on Microsoft's upcoming operating system to combat Apple in its traditionally strong education segment, working closely with Microsoft and Intellon for the development of education-specific Windows 8 applications.

“You’ll also see us drive more solutions, and simplify the total product portfolio to make it easier for the channel to sell," Brenkel said. "And I think with that type of focus and consolidation, in the next couple of quarters the market share will climb back to its former heights. I’m optimistic the PC business will aggressively start to grow again.”

Brenkel said HP's traditional PC sales had slowed due to the introduction of tablets such as Apple’s iPad, the success of which contrasted sharply with HP’s short-lived TouchPad, but he expected to see improvement in the PC market along with more competition and innovation in the tablet space, particularly with the release of tablet-notebook hybrid products.

“Apple is the number one thanks to their iPad business, which some analysts count as a PC and others don’t,” he said. “They are two separate devices, one is an ‘accessing information’ device, and one is an ‘access and creation’ device, and I think we’ll start seeing devices where tablets integrate with notebooks.”

“That will start to change market dynamics,” he told CRN. “But what will really change dynamics in the notebook business is ultrabooks.”

Brenkel said HP will tackle Apple’s traditional selling points of thin and light design, operating system and customer experience. At the end of last year HP unleashed its first ultrabook for consumers, the Folio 13, and will this year unveil its Intel Core i5 Spectre targeted at businesses.

It has also released its own version of Apple’s Genius Bar through the introduction of HP “Total Care” centres; physical stores with ‘experts’ on hand, dedicated to customer support and service.

The first centre was launched in Beijing in March 2011, with eleven since opening globally, and eight in Asia Pacific alone. HP confirmed centres will be opened in Australia but declined to provide a date. 

Soothing channel after rough year

HP’s annual workstation and partner event plays host to over 2000 channel partners worldwide. The company’s channel directive for 2012 includes the tagline “better together”. Over the coming year it will converge all products and solutions into one entity to close the door on any lingering concerns from partners about the future of PSG.

“This is about helping to build the channel focus on HP,” Brenkel said. “We’ll be exposing partners to various aspects of HP’s commitment to the channel and reinforcing the channel’s commitment to HP.”

“After last year’s announcement about the possible separation of PSG, this is now being consolidated into one company and the value of all the business is reinforcing where HP’s strategy is moving forward.”

Anneliese Olsen, head of HP’s Asia Pacific commercial solutions business, said the PC maker would retain its world-leading position by focusing on innovation, performance and reliability.

“When we talk to customers about the environments where they are using workstations, they’re usually mission-critical situations,” she said. “Over 60 percent of the world’s financial stock markets are run on HP workstations. Most planes, buses and trains are designed for HP workstations.”

"We’ve gone from traditional towers to creating small former factor workstations, and had the creation of mobile workstations, all based on customer feedback.”

HP will unveil details about key upcoming product lines over the coming week. Stay tuned for further coverage.

Allie Coyne travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of HP.

Copyright © CRN Australia. All rights reserved.

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