HP beefs up small-business offerings

Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday added two "e-services" to its small-business lineup

The new Extended Office and Web Services packages will be accessible via HP's Business Center Web site.

HP Extended Office is a subscription-based service that provides HP business-PC users with installation, business software, 24-hour phone support, and nightly online backups for a monthly fee. HP Web Services includes Web site development, e-commerce and credit card processing services.

"Many small businesses are IS (information services) challenged," said Michael Weir, general manager of HP's Small and Medium Business Organization. HP's goal is to help customers better install, manage and support their PCs and applications that run on them, he said.

HP's move to beef up its Web-based small-business offerings comes as a number of small-business sites are wrestling for positioning and partnerships.

Microsoft continues to add services to its bCentral small-business site while striking partnerships with third-party players such as Rivio and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, with which Microsoft is building a portal.

Microsoft executives have said they expect bCentral to evolve into a showcase for the Microsoft.Net software-as-a-service strategy.

AOL Time Warner continues to hash out how to address the small and medium-sized business market through its Netscape portal. Netscape.com is in the middle of transitioning to become the portal for Time Warner, throwing into question the fate of the Netscape Netbusiness small-business venture.

Like Microsoft, HP is looking to add third-party service offerings to its small-business Business Center portal, Weir said. HP also is seeking to strike deals that would make offerings such as the new HP Extended Office available on other small-business sites, such as Microsoft's bCentral, he said.

Weir said HP and Microsoft's bCentral team had not come to such an agreement, but he didn't rule out the possibility of a future deal.

HP's Extended Office program is aimed at businesses with between one and 20 consumers. For $169 a month, customers can rent an HP Vectra v1400 desktop PC bundled with Microsoft Office 2000 and various software management and virus-protection software, plus obtain HP-guaranteed online support and backup. For $229 a month, customers get all the same software and support using an HP Omnibook 6000 notebook.

HP is offering optional monitor, printer and other peripheral upgrades for additional fees.

The company introduced a similar set of small-business services for its Brio PC customers in February 2000.

On Tuesday, HP relaunched its Web Services small-business offerings. Among these offerings are basic and advanced hosting packages. Through its 55 industry-specific pages, HP also is offering customers in certain industries tailored Web Services templates and packages.

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