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Hewlett-Packard yesterday introduced new products during the HP Expo in Shanghai, China. Jonathan Browning for The National
Hewlett-Packard yesterday introduced new products during the HP Expo in Shanghai, China. Jonathan Browning for The National

HP offers tailored service to UAE

Hewlett-Packard plans to introduce a new support service for individual customers in the Emirates, as it seeks ways to offset a global slump in sales of computers and printers.

Hewlett-Packard plans to introduce a new support service for individual customers in the Emirates, as the world's largest PC maker seeks ways to offset a global slump in sales of computers and printers.

The American company is currently rolling out 80 products and expects to begin the new service as early as next month.

The Emirates would be the only country in the Middle East and Africa to have such a scheme, where technicians would come to people's homes to fix devices within 24 hours of getting a call.

"It's typically used for corporate business," said Salim Ziade, the general manager for HP's personal systems group in the Middle East. "If you sell [computers] to Mercedes-Benz or Emirates [Airline], they expect a technician will come and fix it on site. This is not the consumer-level service, typically."

HP's increased focus on service schemes comes as global revenues for its computers, printers and other products have fallen dramatically, and as competitors eat up the company's market share with more affordable or innovative products.

During the first quarter this year, HP's earnings dropped nearly 44 per cent compared with a year earlier. Revenue fell 7 per cent, to US$30 billion (Dh110.19bn), as demand for both HP's commercial and consumer businesses softened.

Yet one of the company's few areas of revenue increases included services, which inched up 1 per cent, to $8.6bn.

"HP has moved toward more services and higher-margin technologies", such as software and data-storage offerings, said Mark Fabbi, a technology analyst with Gartner, the market research firm. "But the underlying culture and approach of the company has changed little. They are still largely silo-driven and they are still seen as a tactical provider of 'things'."

Still, experts say that such service schemes could hold good possibilities for HP as added channels of revenue.

A similar programme has already been pilot-tested in India, "quite successfully", said Mr Ziade.

HP is also trying to offset declining sales in developed markets by courting customers more aggressively in emerging markets.

The company is currently the top computer-seller in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, with more than 19 million units shipped last year, according to market data from NPD DisplaySearch.

While this equates to nearly 5 per cent growth compared with 2010 for this region, it is significantly less than the growth rates of either Samsung or Apple, which ranked second and third, respectively when looking at the sales of traditional computers, monitors and tablets.

In the Middle East over the past two years, HP has doubled its staff, to more than 2,000 employees. It also moved into a bigger office in Abu Dhabi this year to accommodate a growing staff that is now about 50.

Still, Mr Ziade said the greatest challenge for HP in the Middle East today was to find the right talent to meet the demands of both business and residential customers. "You need to catch up very fast with a massive increase of customer expectations. Investing in training is number one."


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