Hewlett-Packard Co is out on the streets to spread the internet word and brand itself as one of the foremost exploiters of the ‘information age’. The company reckons we are entering the next wave of the Internet, where companies will really start to do business, and communicate on a personalized basis with customers suppliers and partners, and this, it says will bring with it huge social, economic and political change. Hewlett-Packard wants to be seen as an enabler for businesses to enter the information age, extend the enterprise out to the supply chain and beyond, and manage the changing business processes this will bring about. In the UK, the company has collaborated with the Confederation of British Industry to host a series of events, the first of which is on June 3, aimed at chief executives of major businesses, to discuss the potential benefits of exploiting the information age, as well as the social and economic impact it is likely to have on their businesses. Similar initiatives are expected to roll out in the US later in the year. Jolanta Pilecka, UK marketing manager of the company’s newly formed Internet and electronic commerce division, says extending the intranet out to preferred suppliers and customers could totally change the workings of the supply chain. End user customers will be able to talk directly with suppliers, and Pilecka believes middlemen such as distributors, will have to re-define their roles if they are to stay in business. In addition, the company believes we will see not only ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing, where goods are made up and supplied once an order has been placed for them, but also personalised manufacturing, where the customer will specify the product he or she wants, and where we may be able to purchase products, or configurations of those products, that are totally unique. Having outlined its view of the future, Hewlett-Packard then reckons it can offer the full range of products and services to support companies in migrating to the new world, including consultancy, infrastructure products such as Web servers for both Unix and Windows NT, software, security products, web devices, and secure electronic payment systems. What it cannot supply directly itself, it gets from partners. Pilecka says the company’s acquisition of electronic payment firm Verifone Inc last month (CI No 3,147) was a major step for Hewlett-Packard, which does not have a significant history of acquisitions, and shows the company’s commitment to the web and electronic commerce.
Hewlett-Packard says it is particularly well placed to advise on corporate intranets, since it has spent the last ten years building its own, and it quotes impressive productivity gains and cost savings. Automating the administration of employee expense claims alone brought the cost per form down to $1 from $9, and the time involved per claim to two days from ten. This, the company estimates, saves it between $2m and $5m a year. Externally, it estimates the cost of sending a printer driver to a customer on disk was $14, which reduces to $1 over the Net and saves the company a staggering $8m a month. Having established its branding in the Internet arena, the company expects to launch several new products in the coming months, including a new range of web servers due today, security products, more web devices, and some more Smart Card products in the early autumn.