Service for the SMB

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You're a small or midsize business, looking for a technology solution. Where do you go?

For products, you have many brand choices, including customized, assembled PCs.

For solutions, which include services and software, there are no clear answers.

Many IT dealers have graduated to selling services. If you've bought PCs or printers from a dealer, you are likely to get some services from there, such as networking or systems integration, apart from post-warranty support.

But if you want branded services, you don't have much by way of options. And if you move up and look for services not directly related to hardware or office networking-email hosting, or security, or a CRM deployment-then the options narrow even further. The services majors don't sell to SMBs. The Indian services majors don't even sell to businesses in India.

And that leaves a big gap for SMBs searching for solutions (and for vendors looking for a market). India hasn't been seen as much of a market for branded services for the SMB or consumer: for instance, an extended warranty package off the shelves. But that's changing, as SMBs burn their fingers trying to save money with customized services and software. Major vendors will begin to focus on branded services for SMBs. One of them is HP, the largest IT vendor in India (and the world).

Prasanto K Roy,
president, ICT Publishing
Group, CyberMedia

A week ago, in the unlikely venue of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, HP launched its 2008 SMB products and strategy for Asia-Pacific. The products were interesting, but the strategy was even more so: it was essentially about services.

What's new is that an SMB can buy these services from HP whether or not it's a customer of HP products. The company's earlier service offerings for SMBs, such as its Total Care packages, were connected to its products. HP has had a strong and growing services business, but only for large enterprises (bringing in a tenth of HP's $1.8 billion revenues in India last year).

HP's Total Care gets 26 additions, half of them paid services, such as an online email and anti-spam filter (in partnership with Symantec) for an annual $30 or more per user. There's also an enterprise mobility suite, with services for over-the-air device management, setup, diagnostics and security. That's available not just for HP iPAQ handhelds but also for competing smartphones running Symbian (Nokia and Sony Ericsson), PalmOS or Windows mobile. A 'notebook tracing' service, to be introduced in India ahead of any other country in Asia-Pacific, automatically sends out an email from the laptop each time it's connected to the Internet, listing the IP address, and also lets you remotely destruct your data, if the laptop is stolen. And HP's new 'Print 2.0' services, aimed at the needs of a Web 2.0 world, includes free downloads like SmartWeb printing that's pretty smart and efficient when you're printing Web pages, and also covers paid options like a logo design service (logoworks.com).

This is a small start in a growing SMB market and it doesn't cover most services that SMBs need, from email hosting to frontline or core business apps, but it's a sign of things to come. AMI Partners put the SMB business at 64% of the Asia-Pacific and Japan IT market of $210 billion in 2006, a growth of 58% over 2005. You can be sure to see more big names tapping this market across the region, and in India.

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