HP puts vision into e-service effort

Will e-services replace e-commerce as the next big Net buzzword?
Written by Michael Fitzgerald, Contributor

Hewlett-Packard thinks so, and it's focused itself on a broad strategy based on the idea of bringing services to the Internet.

"We're hooking the big one" with this announcement, HP CEO Lew Platt told ZDNN in an interview at the company's headquarters in California. Platt said the Net and transistor were probably the biggest things that had happened in his lifetime.

While HP initially announced its e-services strategy in March, shortly after a restructuring, details have appeared in piecemeal fashion. Among them are a hardware-for-revenue swap with ariba.com and a $100 million joint venture with middleware maker BEA Systems Inc. Today's announcement "wraps things up for us; it ties it all together," Platt said. He said the company could have held today's briefing earlier, "but we wanted to make sure there was substance to it."

Among the substantive announcements presented during the briefing:

  • 'Apps on tap,' where businesses pay for applications only as they use them.
  • Next-generation portals, Web sites that collect industry, application or company-specific information and services.
  • E-speak, an HP technology aimed at creating development of online brokering services. The strategy will transform HP into an Internet leader, said Ann Livermore, president of HP's $15bn (£0.91bn) Enterprise Computing Group. Livermore said HP had spent the last six months working to address its lack of online presence. "We were missing the 'V' thing, the vision, both within our company and with customers," she said. She called the announcement "the beginning of Internet Chapter Two, where the Web will work for you."
  • But will anybody buy e-services? Livermore cited a study from Forrester Research Inc. saying that the market for such services will exceed $10bn in 2001. Analysts said that the e-services market has huge potential. "It's got great legs -- the e-services revolution is what's going to be happening over the next two to five years," said Patricia Seybold, principal at the Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. Seybold said HP was by no means the only player in the market. She cited Oracle Corp. as probably the most aggressive large vendor in the e-services space, but said that HP had "crystallised" the concept.

    On hand at the briefing were a variety of partners. For instance, in the "apps on tap area," Microsoft Corp. and HP will offer Microsoft's Exchange groupware program and Back-office software on a subscription basis to large businesses, while outsourcer EDS Corp. will work with HP to develop an infrastructure application targeted at ISPs. For next-generation portals, officials from the Swedish Tax Authority, the Internet Travel Network and Answer Financial discussed how they had worked with HP to create sites that use collections of related links and services that should be more useful to customers. Livermore said that several other "major" deals for next-generation portals are forthcoming.

    As for e-speak, which had been code-named Fremont, HP promised to make the middleware platform open source before year's end. E-speak is designed to be a dynamic interface between various Web services. The technology is similar in some ways to IBM's T-Spaces effort. "E-speak will do for services what the Web has done for data," promised Rajiv Gupta, general manager of HP's Open Services Operations.

    Analysts praised the company's e-services plan. "This is a business vision, not a technology-centric vision," said Nina Lytton, president of Open Systems Advisors in Boston.

    Carmen Nobel of PC Week contributed to this story

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