HP/COMPAQ: Support for dropped lines concerns users

A too early phase-out of support for shelved Hewlett-Packard products concerns IT managers.

Following the newly merged HP/Compaq announcement of its product roadmap and company structure, the flood of early information has mostly impressed and soothed users and analysts.

However, IT managers voiced concerns that the new organisation will "make a meal out of the on-going support services, like Compaq did when it acquired Digital".

Peter Madden, IT manager, Reed Elsevier Australia, said his company will continue to purchase both Compaq and HP products from the new HP, but said "a lot hinges on the service and support".

"If they screw this up, customers will leave in droves. There is no doubt that Compaq has been a forerunner in the Intel space and I am pleased to see the Proliant range being continued.

"On the other hand, HP has a strong following with HP-UX. In regards to storage, Compaq will dominate this market so HP may as well pack away its storage solutions now rather than prolong the agony for customers."

Ian Birks, CEO of IT market researcher, Ideas International, believes the product roadmap changes have been both sensible and fairly predictable. But despite all the behind-the-scenes planning work that has taken place, he said, "This merger is still a huge, hairy gorilla of a task to pull off.

"I believe the danger is the new HP could end up being inwardly focused for a period of months. This would be a significant risk factor because its competition is keen to capitalise on any ground available.

"I think that a large part of HP and Compaq's customer base is very loyal and will probably stick with the new company for a period of time to see how they are treated. This is why the first few months of the new company are absolutely business-critical from HP's perspective. If it fouls up in any way with its major customers then it may be hard to win them back," Birks said.

"If they handle that period well, then the company will have a good footing to succeed. If not, it will take a number of years to recover and it may never achieve any of the positive goals of the merger."

According to Reefe Brighton, CIO, Aurora Energy, if he was not already a HP purchaser, he might be cautious and take a wait-and-see approach before jumping in with the 'new' HP.

"But I have no reason to suspect that the quality will degrade, nor am I worried about the future of the specific products we have come to depend on." Brighton said he does expect to keep buying HP Proliant servers and pocket PCs as well as one more round of upgrading Aurora's Alpha/VMS systems, before HP rolls over to Itanium.

And as to whether the product roadmap changes might encourage non-HP customers to purchase HP products, Birks said this is an under-played side of the merger, which has big potential.

"The new HP will have greater business credentials to compete head-to-head with IBM and may well achieve some significant upside if it executes it well."

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