HP Woos SMBs With New POS Systems, Notebooks, Servers

Supersizing is so 1990s. Nowadays, it seems everything small is in vogue, from small servings in restaurants to small cars that consume less gas--and small businesses attracting lots of attention from big technology companies.

Hewlett-Packard is the latest vendor to woo SMBs with a raft of new hardware offerings. The company is hoping VARs will help it win this target audience's hearts and wallets.

In the point-of-sale (POS) space, where traditional vendors such as NCR are facing increasing competition from so-called "PC on a cash drawer" solutions, HP is shipping the first update to its rp5000.

These systems are gaining favor, especially among small retailers that face the obstacle of big initial investments. In the past 10 years, the number of PCs used as POS systems has grown from 1.5 million to nearly 6.8 million, according to market research firm Gartner.

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Traditional POS vendors maintain that their products are designed to better withstand the rigors of harsh retail environments. HP, however, has upped the ante in terms of durability. HP says it improved some of the durability features with the new offering, the rp5700 POS system. For example, the platform can withstand temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 degrees higher than the rp5000. Also, a RAID controller comes standard on the system motherboard, allowing for instant backup of data, and an optional removable hard drive enables retailers to lock up the drive in a safe overnight.

The rp5700 begins to ship April 16, starting at about $999.

To encourage VARs to sell its PC-based products that involve longer sales cycles--POS systems, workstations, thin clients and PC blades--HP will offer two times the minimum margins on those solutions, says Jon Snaider, vice president of Personal Systems Group Americas for business PCs at HP.

Meanwhile, in the notebook arena, where sales continue to outpace those of desktops, HP rolled out two new laptops designed with smaller businesses in mind.

The HP Compaq 6515b and 6715b include built-in mobile broadband, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, and come with a choice of AMD processor--among them, the Turion 64 x2 dual-core chip.

The 6515b is a 14.1-inch widescreen model that weighs about 5 pounds. The 6715b measures 15.4 inches and weighs nearly 6 pounds.

Users can access their calendars, e-mail and tasks without booting the machines. The laptops integrate full volume encryption and a device access manager that allows users to turn particular ports on or off. Users that plan to loan their laptop to a co-worker, for example, can disable the USB ports first as a security precaution. The new notebooks also include HP's 3D drive guard, which protects the hard drive against sudden drops. The 6515b and 6715b will be available later this month, with prices starting at $649.

On the server side of the house, HP is debuting the ProLiant ML 115, an entry-level product being targeted at small-business owners that are currently using desktops as servers.

The ML 115 is a basic tower geared at networking, file and print, shared Internet access, small-team e-mail and LAN infrastructure. With an AMD Athlon single-core processor, the server costs $499. With an AMD Opteron dual-core chip, pricing starts at $729.

Among the features requested by partners is built-in support for RAID 5, which is not a standard feature for HP's comparable Intel-based model, the ML 110.

Solution providers also have the option of adding a Lights-Out remote management card, which enables them to manage the servers remotely for SMB customers, a key feature as more VARs look to provide managed services. The card costs $219.