Hewlett-Packard and Alcatel are targeting mid-sized companies with a bundled IT and communication service programme.
The two companies have joined forces to extend HP's Smart Office programme, which offers SMEs a one-stop service for their entire computing needs, to include telecommunication equipment and services, company executives said at the Telecom World 2003 conference and exhibition in Geneva.
With Ready Office, Alcatel and HP will partner with telecommunication service providers worldwide to provide voice, data and multimedia services. In Geneva, the partners announced their agreement with France Télécom.
The bundled package of equipment and services, ranging from computers and printers to network access and internet telephony, will be available on a pay-per-use model.
Many SMEs cannot afford to hire people to manage the systems they need and are generally unwilling to take risks on technology, said HP chairman and chief executive officer Carly Fiorina.
"They need technology that is appropriate, economical, totally reliable and uncomplicated," she added. "With our Ready Office program, we aim to deliver on that need."
Fiorina referred to the programme as a way of offering SMes a "prepackaged office, wrapped in a managed service". What makes the service particularly interesting for this group of customers, she said, is that they pay only for what they use.
Alcatel chairman and CEO Serge Tchuruk said the programme is scalable so customers can easily add or drop services, and there are no up-front costs.
Yankee Group research director Camille Mendler was enthusiatic about the offering.
"This simple, off-the-shelf package is exactly what small and medium-size businesses want," she said. "This is the first time that some really big industry players have joined forces to provide such a service."
The Ready Office programme could help telecom operators carve out a larger chunk of the global SME market for fixed and mobile communication services, which, according to Tchuruk, will be worth around $300bn in 2003.
Service providers are eager to move up the value chain and provide value-added services, such as messaging and voice over IP , in addition to their basic voice and data services. "Our package is a way for them to achieve this," said Tchuruk.
The package will be available through a multitude of channels provided by the partners.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service