User group Encompass looks at postmerger HP

A major Hewlett-Packard Co. user group, Encompass, Tuesday released the results of its postmerger survey to top HP officials, and while most of the feedback was positive, there were some problem areas for the company -- and for Microsoft Corp. as well.

The Chicago-based Encompass received responses from 569 members in a survey sent to 9,000 HP customers, mostly senior technologists in companies large and small. Encompass said the results are representative of customers within a 4 percent sampling margin of error.

Asked what role HP would play in their company's IT strategy, 51 percent said it would remain the same, 25 percent said it would increase, 17 percent said it would decrease and 7 percent said it would have no role.

Jim Becker, a board member of Encompass and lead systems engineer at the Urban Institute think tank in Washington, said the survey's finding that almost a fifth of the respondents planned to decrease their use of HP was "the biggest flag" for the vendor. Becker, attending HP World here, said the survey doesn't show why some HP customers plan to change their use of the company's products. But he said Encompass has been asked by HP to help form focus groups to explore underlying issues.

Jack Novia, vice president and general manager of HP services, said he believes that the finding is "a little out of sync" with the business activity HP sees, particularly from enterprise customers. Indeed, in one measure, market research firm IDC reported last month that HP had 34 percent of the high-performance, technical computing revenue share, making it the market leader.

Novia also stressed that feedback from the user group is critical. "This is a very serious survey that we step back and look at," he said.

Just before last year's merger with Compaq Computer Corp., Encompass presented a survey to HP with a strong message that users wanted clear product direction. "Don't leave us wondering" was the dominant theme, said Becker. HP "worked hard on putting out road maps early," an effort that may have paid off, he said.

The survey found that 67 percent of the respondents found the road maps useful in making IT decisions, and 48 percent said they are satisfied with HP's adherence to its strategy, 44 percent weren't sure, and 8 percent said they weren't satisfied.

The survey also indicates that more users will be moving move from Windows to Linux. Asked whether they had plans to replace Windows systems with Linux, 27 percent said yes, with the majority of those referring to servers. Another 22 percent said they don't know, and 35 percent said no. Fifteen percent said the issue didn't apply to their IT operations.

Novia questioned those findings and said that among large companies, the shift to Linux has been more from older Unix systems than Windows. HP, he said, is "agnostic" in terms of which operating system a customer uses.

The survey also indicated that just 14 percent had plans to deploy HP's Itanium processor, while 16 percent said they would not. The majority, 51 percent, said they weren't sure about their plans, and 20 percent said the processor wasn't applicable.

Novia said he wasn't surprised by the finding, adding that customers don't necessarily jump on the first release of new architecture.

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