AOL, Hewlett-Packard Trade Ads, Servers

AOL Time Warner is beefing up its infrastructure with Hewlett-Packard servers and workstations — in return for millions of dollars in online advertising inventory.

Through the deal, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP will provide AOL Time Warner’s America Online unit with high-end Unix-based Superdome servers, L- and N-Class Servers and HP workstations. In return, AOL will hand over advertising inventory on the America Online service in addition to Netscape.com, Spinner.com and ICQ, among others.

Specific financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed. However, it’s not the first time that AOL Time Warner has offered ad inventory in return for technology for use at America Online, which has said publicly that it intends to strengthen its back-end technology.

“With the number of AOL members continuing to grow, and with our members spending almost 70 minutes a day online, highlighting the increasing popularity of the AOL service, we want to make sure that we continue building relationships with companies like HP to help continue to build our unparalleled network infrastructure,” Terry Laber, AOL’s vice president for system operations. AOL today announced that its worldwide membership has surpassed 30 million.

In May, the firm gave Cisco Systems ad space on both AOL interactive properties, as well as on its Time Inc., and Turner Broadcasting/CNN magazine and cable divisions. Earlier this year, the interactive giant inked a similar arrangement with router and switch manufacturer Foundry Networks.

Monday’s deal also builds on an earlier relationship from late 1999 between then-independent America Online and HP, which at the time was focusing on its digital imaging products.

Through that arrangement, Dulles, Va.-based America Online rolled out HP-branded content about printing and digital imaging, and a feature that warned users if their HP ink cartridges was running low — recommending they purchase a new one via AOL’s e-commerce area, Shop@AOL. The 1999 deal also saw HP becoming a preferred merchant in Shop@AOL.

For its part, HP’s Webb McKinney said the company was excited about the renewed effort.

“We’re excited to expand our relationship and increase our brand recognition with America Online,” said McKinney, who is president of HP’s business customer organization. “Our ability to provide a total customer experience across the portfolio of HP’s products, services, and solutions is critical to the success of partnering with industry leaders like AOL.”

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