IBM aims for desktop outsourcing

Having transformed itself into a services company through the widespread provision of data center outsourcing services over the past 14 years, IBM Corp. is now setting its sights on offering desktop services.

Convinced that companies have a weak handle on their desktop infrastructure management costs, IBM is bundling existing desktop services into a unified offering called IBM WorkPlace, the company announced on Tuesday.

IBM is offering to manage for a monthly fee the provisioning, operation, maintenance and support of a company's printers, desktop and laptop PCs, handheld devices, copiers and fax machines. Contracts are expected to run three years, which is on average how often a company refreshes its desktop infrastructure.

"We have had services capabilities in each (desktop) area for a while, but we're now taking a fresh look at what you need to do to help the customer save money, and offering it to people in a new way: at a low-cost, per-seat basis," said Jim Bolton, IBM Global Services' program manager for output services.

IBM currently manages the maintenance and operation of over 4.2 million PCs and printers, but the vendor believes that there is a lot more business to be had in this space, and trusts that this new offering will help it attract many more clients. "We want to go deeper in the marketplace," Bolton said.

IBM promises significant savings to the companies that contract these desktop services compared with what the companies currently spend doing this work themselves. The IBM emphasis would be on determining through a systematic analysis a company's desktop needs, tailoring its desktop holdings accordingly and eliminating redundancies and inefficiencies, Bolton said.

"We can help people understand what they're truly spending and rationalize that down to where they have the right device at the right price," he said. Too often, companies ignore how many PCs, printers, copiers, fax machines and scanners they own, how much they spend on maintenance, supplies and operation, and how they could streamline and improve this desktop infrastructure, he said.

IBM WorkPlace is particularly geared towards -- but not limited to -- companies planning to refresh their desktop infrastructure for the first time since the year 2000, when the Year 2000 problem prompted most companies to significantly revamp their PC holdings.

The IBM WorkPlace bundle draws from these existing sets of services:

-- IBM Client Advantage services for managing the acquisition, deployment, operation and maintenance of PCs and printers

-- IBM Output Management services for managing the implementation and output of printers, copy machines, scanners and fax machines, billed on a per-page basis

-- IBM Wireless and Mobility services for managing devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and integrating them into a company's IT infrastructure

-- IBM Consulting & Implementation services for deeper advice and customization

Another piece to IBM WorkPlace is financing provided through IBM so that companies can, if they choose, lease the hardware and software from IBM, avoiding having to acquire desktop assets. IBM WorkPlace is hardware- and software-agnostic, meaning IBM provides the services to desktop infrastructures made up of IBM and non-IBM products, Bolton said.

IBM WorkPlace has been in pilot testing in North America, Asia-Pacific and Europe for several months and is expected to be rolled out worldwide in the coming months.

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