One of the trends I have been expecting to see in the Netbook arena but haven’t much yet has been the companies with strong brand recognition or channel structures to begin throwing their weight around.
The fact that companies like MSi and Asus have been holding their own against goliaths like HP and Dell has really surprised me. As the back to school season came and went, I was more and more surprised that HP, Lenovo and Dell didn’t leverage their strong vendor relationships and deep discounting ability to completely dominate Netbook sales. Do they simply not take the market segment seriously yet, despite all the press it has gotten as a major area of growth in trying times? Where is the dirty pool and monopolistic grandstanding I have been waiting for?
Ah, here it is….and just in time for Christmas.
According to Digitimes, Hewlett-Packard (HP) is telling it’s manufacturers that Asus is off limits from here on in, and they should not take outsourcing orders from the Lords of Eee. Considering the fact that Asus is trying to ride the Netbook wave in hopes of unseating Lenovo as the fourth largest notebook vendor in the world, it is not surprising that Numero Uno HP is trying to block them off now while they still can.
Apparently a notice went out from HP telling it’s partners that if they DO take Asus orders in the future, their business with HP may very well dry up. Since there is simply no comparison between the numbers of units shipped by HP and those by Asus, however promising the upstart may be, this is a serious threat that could serious crimp the bottom line of even a large manufacturer, and break the back of a smaller one that depends on HP.
Some industry insiders are not sure if this story, tipped by anonymous sources at the manufacturers, is legit simply because Asus is not really a threat to HP at this time or for the foreseeable future. HP’s product line is so vast and wide ranging that crushing the hopes and dreams of a company like Asus is hardly worth their time, and would just risk a backlash.
However, it does have the ring of truth as far as I am concerned. However I don’t think it originated with the HP Board, or even any high ranking officers of the company. Rather this sounds like the work of a blue flaming regional director or section manager trying to look aggressive and proactive in an uncertain economic climate. There are those who feel that the best way to avoid being laid off by a big company is to do something, anything…and let the dead wood be downsized. This is just the kind of risky play a manager with that kind of thinking would make.
HP has no comment, and Asus says they know of no such plotting by their dear friends at HP…but as the stakes increase and the Netbook market grows I expect to see more and more such powerplays in this rapidly maturing market space.