New York - PC Expo: Compaq to serve small biz

Compaq is planning to launch a services package for small and medium sized business designed to help them with electronic commerce applications, CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer said today.

The Compaq Online Services offering is part of a larger push towards services programs that the company will undertake now that it has completed its merger with Digital.

That deal completed last week, adds 25,000 services employees to Compaq, which during the past few days has unveiled several new offerings designed to move the corporation from an equipment supplier to a full-fledged IT company.

The Online Services package partners Compaq with companies such as United Parcel Service, GTE and Microsoft, allowing users to purchase postage online, send and track files, and backup systems.

A package aimed at the corporate market, discussed by Compaq executives on Friday, will create an extranet that companies can link to gain information about the set-up and maintenance of complicated back-end applications such as SAP's R3.

"I foresee a day when enterprise application will work almost as plug and play models," Pfeiffer said.

In discussing how the merger will affect the rest of Compaq's business, Pfeiffer echoed many of the themes he addressed at the company's press conference last week.

In particular, he restated Compaq's commitment to open standards, including the Windows NT operating system.

But that doesn't mean that his company is withdrawing support from Digital's UNIX OS or from its Alpha 64-bit processor.

As for Alpha, Compaq's hope is to make it an industry standard along with Intel's Merced processor, due in mid-2000.

Last week, officials said that they will attempt to drive Alpha as a standard in part through licensing deals with other companies, including Samsung, who will manufacture and sell the processor at prices that will be lower than Intel's.

The support for UNIX is necessary, Pfeiffer said, if the company wants to retain the loyalty of Digital's customers.

"These customers are saying to us, 'can't you see that there is more than the industry standard?'" Pfeiffer said. "The industry standard isn't doing it for us."

The commitment to offering what the customer wants extends beyond the OS to the method of purchase, Pfeiffer said.

Reiterating the point he made on Friday, Pfeiffer said that Compaq would continue to work through its resellers, but would also be willing to sell products directly or over the Internet.

In fact, he said, the company sells about $6m (£3.7m) a day over the Internet, when the company's resellers are included.

"That's more than Dell," he pointed out. And Compaq has plans to extend an in-store kiosks program announced last week which allows consumers to configure their own PCs to 4,000 stores by the Christmas season.