Scala's Jeff Porter: Why the HP deal is big (and not a yawn-fest)

November 19, 2010 by Dave Haynes

Schedules conspired against us, but Jeff Porter from Scala and I finally sync’d up this morning and he walked me through a demo of the new program they have with HP – a program I called a big yawn when it was announced recently.

I wasn’t getting tingles because HP was marketing digital signage on thin client-style desktop boxes with MSRPs that were off the chart high, and Scala was kinda-sorta re-announcing an offer it had already launched.

Here’s what Porter says makes this different, and from his perspective, is legitimately groundbreaking. He’s spinning it, of course, as that’s his job. But he makes valid points.

1 – HP is fully invested in this. Porter has been around the sector for as long as anyone, and dealt with all the large technology and distribution companies out there. This is the most engaged he’s seen a big company get in this space – across divisions and deep into the organization. First-level, 24/7 support for the product will be by HP. Scala provides higher-level support in behind that. Support is a biggie because an Achilles heel of the reseller channel can be buying software from a reseller who can’t, when there’s a need for help, offer much direct assistance.

2 – The deal is global, not regional, and the program is available everywhere HP sells.

3 – MSRPs and actual pricing for these boxes will likely be very different, and competitive. The boxes are also just the start and there are plans to extend the Scala offer into other HP products that are, as I noted, way more interesting – like the HP TouchSmart all-in-ones and the new Slate tablet. That tablet, while pricier than an iPad, will likely be far easier to develop to – going well beyond an app and controlling more of the hardware.

4 – Auto-configuration means just about all the technical check-boxes and numbers and other bits that can be required to get a player properly set up goes away. “It’s amazingly, brain-dead easy,” says Porter.

He walked me through it on a web demo, and there is not much more to the process than filling in some very basic information in a browser form, and getting and then using a registration number. Scripting then takes over to configure the unit in the background. It helps, of course, that there are just two SKUs and PC images to support with a script, but nonetheless it does indeed dumb things down in a big way for end-users whose skill level doesn’t rise much above web-surfing.

That’s not to say the configuration stuff is entirely unique. I’ve seen several platforms that make things pretty simple for getting players and networks up and running. But then they don’t have partners with the distribution and marketing weight that HP can apply, not to mention support.

So … I’m less yawn-prone now. HP is not at DSE with a booth, but presumably the company will have a substantial presence in Scala’s space. Having the biggest PC maker on the planet engaged in the sector at this level is unquestionably a good thing, particularly if R&D starts getting applied and its sales force starts spreading the word on the value proposition of digital signage.

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