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Compaq steps iPaq toward business

The PC maker will undertake an initiative to make its easy-to-use iPaq more appealing to corporate users

Compaq Computer's commercial PC group is attempting to use service and support to pull ahead of the "paq".

To compliment its soon-to-ship iPaq PC, the Houston, Texas, PC maker is about to launch a service and support initiative that will allow corporate IT managers to configure and install software on the iPaq with relative ease.

Under the initiative, which consists of a partnership with manageability software maker Altiris, Compaq will install Altiris eXpress software on iPaq PCs, beginning on 24 January.

Companies will be able to use the eXpress to install applications or deliver software updates, as well as perform backup and restore operations on their iPaqs.

A feature called PC transplant will also simplify the transition from an old PC by capturing a person's preferences and application settings, then moving them to the iPaq. eXpress can also be used to automatically configure a PC, based on information that can be collected by a Compaq Aero handheld fitted with a bar code scanner.

Compaq officials said a forthcoming Gartner Group study will prove the worth of the eXpress software. The report they said will show that managing a PC costs about $225 (£140) each per year, but that a company can cut that cost by 50 to 60 percent if it uses a tool such as eXpress to simplify PC management.

Simplification is also key to Compaq's overall strategy. Compaq developed iPaq as part of move to make PCs simpler. It is working to develop a number of easy-to-use Internet appliance-like devices to compliment iPaq, Company officials said. A Compaq customer would, for example, use an iPaq at the office and take one of its Aero Windows CE devices on the road.

Companies should think, "This whole notion of what you use here and now is going to be much more appliance-like," said Ed Reynolds, director of Compaq's Lifecycle Solutions Group, which was in charge of putting together the Altiris deal. "There's going to be a new world order... where people are going to have individual appliances for the situation they are in at the present time."

One such device in development at Compaq is a wireless handheld that will use Microsoft's Windows CE operating system. It should be introduced in April or May, company officials said.

Compaq is also evaluating partnerships with manufacturers of pager devices and cellular phones so that it might deliver them to customers as well. They will likely come as part of a complete offering, which will help connect customers to data stored on their corporate network.

The eXpress software can be used for 30 days for free, after which it will cost about $30 per PC, along with a maintenance fee of about 25 percent of that cost. It will, however, be free for the first 30 days. Later in the year, Compaq will offer the software on its Armada notebooks and Deskpro desktop PCs.

iPaq, scheduled to ship by mid-January, has received a few thousand orders at this point, Compaq officials said.

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