In a creative effort to reduce channel inventory while helping to stimulate lagging consumer PC sales, the US office of Hewlett-Packard has announced it would begin a BTCO (build-to-custom-order) program that gives its consumer customers the ability to order custom HP laptop computers direct from the factory.
Beginning October 17, HP's BTCO program will reduce the channel inventory of HP's OmniBook and Pavilion laptops by providing only a few actual systems to retail outlets as demos, said Lara Kahler, a product marketing manager for HP's mobile computing division. Customers will use the demos to get a hands-on idea of the laptops, then order custom versions for themselves using online kiosks set up by the retail outlets and linked to HP's retail Web site via the Internet.
With the BTCO program, HP's OmniBook and Pavilion Laptops can be customised with practically any available system feature, including wireless networking, a variety of CD-ROM and DVD options, a range of processor speeds and memory, and a choice of operating system, Kahler said. All BTCO orders are built and shipped directly from an HP factory in Taiwan.
A spokesperson for HP Australia said they considered the BTCO scheme a "pilot program" that would only apply to North America in the short term. "We are still assessing the viability of the program here," he said.
Besides encouraging consumer customers to explore and purchase the range of laptop computer options and configurations offered by HP, the BTCO program is touted to reduce the number of actual laptop units needed to be shipped to retail stores, said Jim Burns, director of worldwide supply chains for HP's mobile computing division.
BTCO will also allow HP to upgrade its portfolio of consumer laptop features more rapidly, with less concern for outdated configurations that could be still sitting on retail store shelves. The BTCO program benefits retail outlets as well by way of smaller inventory investments, Burns said.
"Nobody in the channel likes to have a lot of inventory risk," Burns said.