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HPcom spells 'IT disaster,' says UK firm

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A UK-based IT service company is warning that HP's acquisition of 3com could "spell IT disaster" for existing 3com customers.

Comtek Network Systems, self-described as "Europe's Largest IT Hardware Repair Service," issued a media alert Thursday to sound the alarm. According to the release, many of 3com's products could be orphaned by the $2.7bn acquisition.

As explained by Comtek CEO Askar Sheibani: "When two major tech companies become one, it generally spells good news from an R&D perspective, but disaster for many of the companies' existing customers."

Sheibani fears that service and support for 3com products will be withdrawn due to significant overlap in the two company's offerings: "IT companies like HP don't want to support multiple products that serve the same purpose," he writes, "which means in the event of an acquisition, some product lines invariably get the axe, leaving those customers facing great pressure to replace their IT equipment, irrespective of its condition or whether there is a genuine need to upgrade."

The alert urges HP to be "as transparent as possible" about its plans for 3com products. HP, Comtek advises, should give customers ample notice of product discontinuances so that the affected customers have plenty of time to enter into service agreements with third-part service and repair companies.

Such as Comtek.

But Sheibani doesn't appear hopeful that his advice will be followed. "Unfortunately," he writes, "too many large IT vendors crave absolute power over their customers - if they don't want customers to use a particular product, they'll withdraw support, withhold technical information and generally make it as difficult as possible for anyone to repair the equipment in question."

Sheibani, of course, is issuing his alert with more than a dollop of self-interest - but he has a point.

HP will almost certainly use its clout to expand its product line into areas where 3com is strong. Sheibani specifically mentions China as one possible target. When they do, both 3com's current customers and the third-party service centers that help them maintain and repair their 3com equipment deserve HP's continuing provision of - at minimum - necessary technical info.

As Sheibani puts it: "We hope that in this case, HP will look to respect the wishes of 3Com customers and help them to make IT decisions that best suit their own specific business needs, rather than bullying everyone into an unnecessary equipment upgrade." ®

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