Hewlett-Packard is to follow Compaq and IBM in embracing a direct sales model, with plans to pilot Internet sales in the UK next year.
The vendor acknowledged Dell's success in the direct sales arena but claims this is not a "me too" decision. HP also contended that the move will not cause any conflict with its extensive network of distributors and resellers.
"It is not about replacing or duplicating our existing routes to market," said Gordon Lovell-Reed, director of business transformation and strategy at HP. "It's about keeping up with customers' buying habits."
Some companies want to buy products over the Internet, direct from the vendor, and HP and its channel have been missing out on this business, he said.
This decision flies in the face of HP's often-stated goal of pushing 100% of its business through the indirect channel. "That dream probably didn't match customers' buying patterns," admitted Lovell-Reed.
The decision as to which products to sell over the Web will not be made until the new year. However, the range is likely to include all the low-end Unix servers launched two months ago and some of the firm's NT servers.
IBM personal systems group's general manager, Doug LeGrand, told PC Week last month that the company would sell direct to its largest European customers if they requested it. IBM will give customers private customised IBM Web pages, a concept pioneered by Dell.
Compaq announced plans last month to sell direct over the Internet to small and medium-sized businesses and is offering incentives to its resellers to turn over their customers' details.
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