Hewlett-Packard’s new SMB IT in a Box—which it will market as a “one-stop shop” solution for small and midsize businesses—contains something that could irritate longtime partner Microsoft a good deal: Google Apps for Business.
“HP recognizes the constantly evolving needs of SMB customers in today’s dynamic business environment,” Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and general manager of Consumer PCs and Solutions for HP, wrote in a statement. “Together with HP’s channel partners, we will offer our customers an incredible bundle of PCs, printers and Google Apps for Business, enabling business owners to focus on their customers instead of worrying about IT.”
Google Apps for Business includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and other cloud-based productivity software. HP’s SMB IT in a Box layers those offerings with administrative tools and customer support.
This isn’t the first time that HP’s decided to embrace Google over Microsoft. Earlier this year, the manufacturer unveiled the HP Slate 7, a $170 Android tablet (reviews have been polite but not enthusiastic); it also produces a Chromebook running Google’s Chrome OS, a largely cloud-dependent operating system for laptops and notebooks.
Microsoft has made significant forays into the cloud-productivity space: its Office 365 for midsize businesses offers email, a Web-based administrator panel, and a variety of cloud-based Office applications ranging from Word to PowerPoint. In terms of capabilities, there’s no reason why HP couldn’t have included the Microsoft cloud with its SMB IT in a Box.
But HP also likes to experiment with alternate operating systems, even if a healthy share of its revenue comes from hardware loaded with Microsoft software. Back in 2010, for example, HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion and used the latter’s webOS as the software core of the HP TouchPad, a tablet that managed to earn some buzz before dying in the open marketplace.
HP’s decision to embrace Google for an SMB tool also doesn’t mean the end of its relationship with Microsoft, as it continues to produce all manner of laptops and desktops loaded with Windows 8. If anything, the decision to embrace Google Apps for its Box could simply be a consequence of a boardroom deal, and nothing more; but it’s also a potentially worrying sign for Microsoft, which is under siege from all manner of cloud providers that want a chunk of its core businesses.