Industry insiders are saying the $9.6 billion merger of Compaq Computer Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp. could make Compaq a “one-stop shop” for your schools. After two years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Compaq last week announced plans to buy Digital, in what will be the largest acquisition in the history of the computer industry.

The acquisition is so large, in fact, that some analysts have expressed concern about potential disruption of both companies as corporate leaders struggle with the details of the merger and rank-and-file employees worry about their jobs.

Compaq representatives insist that service to schools won’t suffer during the transition, however, explaining that the company has gained merger experience in previous acquisitions. On the contrary, Compaq sources say, schools ultimately will benefit, because the firm will field a more comprehensive selection of products and services.

Traditionally, Compaq has relied on PC sales, lacking the wherewithal to provide high-end systems and services for large corporate or districtwide networks.

Compaq expands its reach

Sau Lau, an education market analyst for International Data Corp. (IDC), told eSchool News that with the addition of Digital’s technology, Compaq will be able to offer a complete spectrum of products and services — from notebook computers to global enterprise servers, and all the system support necessary for both.

As a result, Lau said, Compaq will be ready to go head to head with IBM and Hewlett-Packard, the generally acknowledged leaders in total systems management.

An early industry innovator, Digital introduced the world’s first small interactive computers, pioneered the concept of networked computing, and developed the search engine AltaVista. But Digital was slow to capture the PC market, and the past decade had seen the company’s profits plummet.

Areas in which Digital remained strong, however, included global services, support, and network and systems integration. It’s precisely these services, industry analysts say, that Compaq wanted for its own.

Until now, Compaq customers have had to use Digital’s service unit for their Windows NT support and other companies for their network and systems integration needs. With the merger, Lau said, Compaq now can offer these services directly to its clients.

In addition to Digital’s 1,600 certified Windows NT technicians, Compaq also will be getting 3,000 Unix engineers and a full line of Unix-based servers and workstations.

What does this mean for your schools? You get another choice among full-service vendors. If you’re running a districtwide network, for example, you’ll soon be able to contract with Compaq to supply not only PCs and servers, but also systems support, network integration, and high-powered workstations. In short, Compaq soon will be able to serve all of your computing needs.