HP to build online mall

Summary:LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard Co. will open an online mall to sell its computers and other products -- but it will not go into competition with its resellers to do it.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard Co. will open an online mall to sell its computers and other products -- but it will not go into competition with its resellers to do it.

The move by Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP into online selling follows similar ventures by Apple Computer Inc., Gateway 2000 Inc., and, most successfully, Dell Computer Corp. Dell claims to sell $2 million daily in equipment.

But HP's endeavor will have an important difference. Other manufacturers are selling their products direct to customers, sometimes angering resellers and retailers in the process. But HP spokesman Larry Sennett said the company has no plans to compete with its partners.

Instead, the mall will have resellers as part of the mall, who will complete the sale. Users will go to the site to review and choose product specifications, and will submit essentially a request for proposals to which mall resellers can respond.

In addition to products, the resellers will also offer an array of services.

The first mall shop will be targeted at small- and medium-sized business of up to 500 employees, the company said. Online selling is critical for reaching those customers, Sennett said. Because they spring up so rapidly, they can be difficult to find.

The HP brand will help attract users to the site, he said. "If we had done this five years ago with the HP brand not as well-known in the PC market place, we could have fallen on our faces," said Sennett.

Intershop Communications Inc. will help set up and maintain the mall for HP, a source said. The San Francisco firm would not comment, but it has scheduled an announcement for around 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Dell, PCs

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