Arik Hesseldahl

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HP and Google Team Up to Offer Small Businesses “IT in a Box”

hp_logo_dark Tech giants Hewlett-Packard and Google just announced a plan in which they will join forces under the banner of Google Apps.

HP has become a Google Apps reseller and will package management tools with its PCs, printers and other IT gear. One extra thing that HP brings to the table is some management software that will simplify setup.

It’s the latest move on the chessboard by HP to get a little closer to Google, and it is interesting in light of the fact that Microsoft has both been building its own hardware — the Surface — and also cozying up to HP rival Dell with a $2 billion loan to help finance its $24.4 billion leveraged buyout. The move is also taking place against the backdrop of HP’s further embrace of Android and Chrome-based hardware. It just added a second Chromebook to its line of notebooks, and also offers an Android-based tablet.

But of course it’s not really about that if you ask HP execs, which I just did. “It’s about giving our customers what they want,” HP’s Ron Coughlin, senior VP for consumer PCs and solutions, said in a brief interview a short while ago. “Actually we’ve been looking at our entire portfolio and asking how we can deliver a holistic solution to small and medium businesses.” It will start rolling out in July.

Google is getting something pretty attractive out the deal, too: HP’s considerable relationships in the channel — the network of third-party resellers that offer customized packages of products to businesses. “You might say there was some excitement on Google’s part at the prospect of Apps being offered in our channel,” Coughlin said.

Google Apps, in case you’ve forgotten, is the Internet giant’s suite of cloud-based office applications that include word processor Google Docs and file storage service Google Drive, among others. Google said more than five million small businesses use it. And indeed it has created a sufficient competitive threat to Office that Microsoft launched its own cloud-based variant called Office 365.

Coughlin wouldn’t drill down on this in our conversation, but it doesn’t take much to imagine more HP hardware — servers and networking gear, for example — being added to this combined package to make the deployment and management of Google Apps a lot easier in the small-business environment. “All I can say is, watch this space,” he said.

The announcement was made on the same day that HP CEO Meg Whitman was due to deliver a big keynote address at the company’s Discover conference in Las Vegas.


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