Hewlett-Packard has laid out its product roadmap for the new HP following the approval of its merger with Compaq.

The most significant decision for the channel was that while the majority of the products under the new company will carry the Hewlett-Packard branding, the company's line of personal computers will be Compaq-branded.

The new HP will phase out its Vectra desktops, Omnibook notebooks, Jordana handhelds and NetServer IA-32 servers, while Compaq's Tru64 Unix operating system will be abandoned in favour of HP-UX, which has a larger installed base and broader ISV (independent software vendor) relationships.

All current lines of HP desktop and notebook products will be re-branded as Compaq products within the next nine to 12 months, with the exception of the e-pc which will continue under the HP brand. The popular Compaq iPAQ handheld will be rebranded as the HP iPAQ Pocket PC.

As Hewlett-Packard and Compaq's storage portfolios differ in terms of scale and target market, the new HP is most likely to continue selling both lines into the near future.

No announcements have yet been made about the 15,000 employees worldwide expected to be made redundant as a result of the merger, but closer to home the first details have emerged as to who will be leading the four divisions.

The Australian managerial appointments have favoured Compaq, with only one of the four positions being taken by a former Hewlett-Packard employee. Compaq's Paul Brandling will be managing the enterprise systems group (ESG) and Tony Bill (also ex-Compaq) will manage the personal systems group (PSG). Hewlett-Packard's Rebekah O'Flaherty will stay on to manage the imaging and printing group (IPG), while Compaq's Pathy Pathmanaban will take on the role of managing the HP services group (HPS).

Joel Martin, research director at IDC Australia, highlighted that under the new company each group has the autonomy to define its channel, partners and products on a local rather than a global basis. He believes this strategy will ease the transition for the new HP, its partners and customers.

The dealers' verdict

For the most part, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard dealers contacted by ARN found little surprises in the product roadmap and were confident that HP's new management had made the right choices.

Hugh Bickerstaff, general manager of Volante Systems, believes the new HP has chosen the best-of-breed products, and said the only surprise was the high percentage of Compaq products that are being kept on with the new company.

Jon Johnston, managing director of Centari Systems, said the decision for each product line was made on market share, therefore those Compaq products that had high penetration were quite rightly included in the new product mix. "I think the whole thing is being managed well," he said. "Even the products they are phasing out will be supported for five years."

BCA IT managing director Stephen Harrington thought keeping the Compaq brand on the desktop was the right move, but found it odd that in keeping the iPAQ over the Jordana, the company chose to brand the iPAQ as a HP product.

At the time of press, there had been no communication between the vendor and its channel partners about discontinued products and whether HP will provide a returns policy or some kind of sales incentive for old lines.

"Normally if a product is discontinued you are on your own," said Harrington. "But this is an unusual situation - hopefully they will be assisting the channel with special pricing or preferably taking the stock back."

"We feel more comfortable after the [product roadmap] announcement than we did before," Harrington said.

Questions remain

The channel now awaits several important decisions in the coming months. First and foremost is whether the new HP will consolidate its channel.

Judith Ridgeway, spokesperson for the new HP, said there are no plans to cull distributors at present, and the company plans to move forward with all the channel partners the two companies had on their books. "Those that only sold Compaq or only sold HP will now be selling all the products under the new HP," she said.

Ridgeway said there had been no details released on redundancies, but "there is an expectation of some lay-offs" in Australia. The company is also yet to decide exactly what it will do with its remaining staff - the headquarters of the 1300-employee strong Hewlett-Packard is in Melbourne, while Compaq's 2000 staff members are based in Sydney.

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