HP touts apps outsourcing for e-services

Hewlett-Packard answered the many questions surrounding its e-services strategy on Tuesday by announcing its intent to drive the burgeoning market of application outsourcing.

In addition to jumping into the application service provider (ASP) market, HP revealed its E-speak technology, formerly codenamed Fremont. With the announcements, HP is hoping to unify its entire organisation as well as lead what it calls "Internet: Chapter 2".

"E-services is spreading like wildfire throughout HP and is unifying our company," said HP CEO Lew Platt, addressing stockholder concerns that the company has become too decentralised. "We have not done a good job with Internet 1, but Internet2 promises to be more profitable."

Ann Livermore, CEO of Enterprise Computing Business at HP, called the announcements "a pivotal day for HP". Livermore went on to say, vaguely, that the E-speak technology would change the way business is done, "allowing all sorts of things to happen".

Though the announcements lacked specific details, what was clear was HP's intent to host applications, storage, data mining and warehousing, and any number of IT services in what it calls "apps on tap". Microsoft will support HP's outsourcing business with Exchange and BackOffice applications, according to Livermore.

After parading an exhaustive queue of strategic partners on stage to support its vision - including PeopleSoft, Seagate and Nokia - HP addressed some of the barriers to acceptance of its E-speak technology. Company officials are calling the E-speak technology a lingua franca, or a universal e-service interface, but they will have their challenges in getting Microsoft's sign-off on something so potentially pervasive and influential.

"E-speak is all-knowledgeable about all things," said Nigel Ball, general manager of the e-services division at HP. "The intent is for Microsoft to endorse it, but it could be perceived as a competitor to BizTalk and a battle for control of e-commerce."

HP is actively recruiting supporters and is in talks with Microsoft now. The company is also hunting for a disinterested group to take control of the free, open-source E-speak software, à la Linux.

"We don't want to control it, we don't want to fall into the Java trap," Ball said.

HP says that E-speak is Java-based middleware that will provide dynamic discovery and brokering of e-business. Using a uniform service interface and software run time that performs the services, E-speak could become the building blocks for a more integrated way of doing business on the Web. But the onus is on HP to drum up worldwide support and adoption of the technology in order for it to succeed.

"The keys will be marketing and acceptance," Ball said.

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