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Sounding Off

Telling the supposed elite of the technology world what your opinions are is kind of a theme for the week (and in Server Pipeline land, rest assured that you are the elite -- I'm just the messenger here). What triggers that in my head is the news that Hewlett-Packard is forging closer ties with Encompass, one of the key HP user groups. This is, of course, smart on more levels than I can count. Any CIO or CEO who's not bending over backwards right now to give their company's user group more access and say should be swatted repeatedly with a rolled-up copy of the Wall Street Journal's stock tables section.

But HP's initiative to work more closely with Encompass, even bringing members into training sessions for HP products at the group's September conference, also indicates a couple more directions in which HP may be headed. One is a recognition by new HP CEO Mark Hurd of the competitive landscape his company faces in key sectors. The right response to that is pleasing your customers -- hey, they're your revenue source. No sense losing them to the other guys. Granted, HP has been good with user groups in the past, but can you imagine La Fiorina making such a priority of this relationship? I thought not. This spells a new strategy for HP.

The other is the extra access that HP will have to try to sell Encompass attendees on new platforms, specifically 64-bit Itanium and Opteron machines. Migration strategies are expected to be a hot topic at the September gathering, and there are still a lot of Alpha users out there that HP would like to sell on a gleaming new Itanium, so it's making migration advice available. The question is, how much will Alpha users want that? Or, for that matter, PA-RISC users? That extra access works both ways; HP server managers will have plenty of opportunities to tell the company how much support they want for older systems, and how interested they are in newer ones. Presumably HP is wise enough to listen; they're the customer, and the golden rule is that the customer is always right.