HP signs e-commerce partnerships with i2, EAI

Hewlett-Packard is aiming to become an electronic-commerce market maker in the high-tech manufacturing field through partnerships with supply-chain software vendor i2 and Engineering Animation Inc (EAI), which makes 3D visualisation and collaboration software.

On Monday, HP announced it is teaming up with i2 to build a yet-unnamed online trading community for distributors of high-tech components. It's also pumping more than $US150 million worth of hosting, content, consulting, hardware, and support into EAI's www.e-Vis.com, a new portal to help engineers and project managers collaborate.

Both projects will be excellent stages for HP's "e-services" strategy, announced earlier this summer, said Shelly Smith, an HP executive.

"The supply chain area [for electronic components] was an obvious one for us to focus on -- we are very familiar with it," Smith said.

The portal for online trading, which will be a joint venture with i2, is due to pilot in October, announce its first beta customers in November, and become generally available in the first quarter of 2000, Smith said. Users will pay a monthly subscription fee (to be set later), she added.

On this site, distributors can take advantage of i2's Rhythm Exchange applications to optimise their production and transactions, such as shopping engines that can factor in price, availability, and delivery costs, collaborating with trading partners to forecast demand, or evaluating which regional factory to shift output to, said Darren Ward, an i2 executive. The goal is faster, less expensive production with less excess or unfilled demand, he added.

I2 was already reaching into e-commerce by giving its customers live links to their suppliers' and buyers' transactions, so it was "a natural evolution to these services", Ward said. Electronics is also one of i2's major industries, he added.

HP is providing the enabling technology, such as its WebQoS quality of service guarantee, ChangeEngine, Smart Internet Usage management, and Praesidium security technology, Smith said.

Meanwhile, HP is also supporting the collaboration and design side of manufacturing through www.e-Vis.com, which opened this week. e-Vis is a forum for EAI's 3-D design software, through which design teams, or even the builder and buyer of a complex product, can create, move, and examine parts, as well as share documents and project updates in real time, EAI officials said. HP will provide security through its Praesidium VirtualVault, as well as advice, content, and hosting, the company said.

Collaboration via e-Vis will cost about $150 to $200 a user a month, officials said.

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