Hardware vendors seek Web services opportunities

A host of hardware vendors are jumping on the Web-based services bandwagon as they realise the additional margins that can be...

A host of hardware vendors are jumping on the Web-based services bandwagon as they realise the additional margins that can be made.

Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Altiris Software have all detailed their plans, while Xerox recently announced software that is designed to allow IT departments to manage their network printing devices via Web browsers.

Vendors are offering everything from consulting to online system upgrades and crisis alerts for companies as large as Ford Motor and as small as individual entrepreneurs.

The services reflect vendor belief that customers respond to products offering easy-to-access services, said Mike Maples, co-founder of Motive Communications, which works with vendors to embed services in their products. "The trend we are seeing is that such products are becoming commoditised and that companies are wrapping 'x services' around their products. Those services create a value proposition that allows companies to increase their profits," he said.

In a move to better personalise Web services, Compaq is preparing to launch its Customer Advantage gateways. The gateways offer personalised, Web-based programs to deliver e-procurement and other services.

Dell, which closed its Dell Marketplace Web services project less than a year ago believing that users were not ready for such an online service offering, is restructuring it as Premier Enterprise Support Service to address PC and laptop clients. "Customers wanted to have that same kind of higher-level support not just for their servers and storage but for their PC clients as well. So we implemented Gold technical support for clients," a Dell representative said.

Meanwhile, HP is offering Web-based printer management through its Web JetAdmin service. Web JetAdmin affords HP customers the option of managing, diagnosing and configuring thousands of printers within their network and from remote offices via a secure Internet browser, according to HP representatives. HP also offers a Web-based service for PC users thorough its Top Tools products.

IBM also offers a range of Web-based services that can be found on its Web site, including its Access ThinkPad Button on IBM ThinkPad laptop computers, a system that contacts IBM to address a range of user questions.

In addition, Altiris last week announced its Client Mgmt Suite, built on a Web-based platform to extend management of desktops, laptops, and personal digital assistants from a single console.

Xerox's CentreWare Web Printer Administration features printer administration, built on Microsoft's .Net platform and Visual Studio.net tools. The software will send alerts via pagers, email, or mobile phones if a networked device goes down.

Further expanding its Web-services, Xerox has also launched a consulting division to help users with enterprise content, knowledge and document management system deployments.

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