Migration customers from the HP 3000 community will experience a change in the automated patch reports the vendors sends, starting in June. The new format removes some crucial and exacting information that was delivered in text-only format of the alerts. As a bonus, the service leaves new room for HP to promote its product specials.
Automatic notice of patches has been a vital and crucial service from HP's support department. Since we signed on for the alerts and notices in the spring of 1997, countless notices have been delivered via e-mail about HP's repairs to software and firmware. While this won't be much of a change for the MPE/iX user — HP ceased such repairs for all types of HP 3000 problems in December — HP's other enterprise computer users will be impacted.
Plainly put, this appears to be a reduction in HP's service levels. Perhaps the vendor always intended to reduce this free-to-the-community level of support. Anyone could sign up for the text-only notices, the most efficient gateway into HP's byzantine and overstuffed database of problem resolutions. Perhaps the new format, coming in a few months, will not sacrifice as much as appears today. But the revised format, a PDF file (shown above, click for more detail; here's a file to download), one that replaces technical details with sales information, suggests a slippery slope leading away from ownership value.
Patch notices such as the old format (at left) opened the door to the fair and balanced distribution of needed support deliverables. You didn't need to maintain an HP support contract to use patches that the vendor engineered. You do, however, need to know as soon as they are available if you're to avoid a system failure or service interruption. HP's support engineers have the most complete data on this — provided that your company buys HP support services. No support contract, well, then you get the circus flyer of the PDF file.
Third party support companies in the HP marketplace might see this change as good for business as well as the future ownership value of HP's enterprise servers. These good companies — many of whom support HP's Unix systems as well as MPE/iX servers — still have their own HP support contact to rely upon. But using a marketing tool for the rest of the community, dressed up around critical information, smacks of an HP now feasting on the growing complexity of using business computers in an enterprise environment. Selling printers alongside critical patch data is like being offered a cable TV upgrade while you're getting a medical consult on an MRI result.
Perhaps the increased revenues from the marketing will persuade Hewlett-Packard's Services executives they can afford to reconsider this change. There's has to be a pony somewhere underneath all of this muck in the vendor's stalls.