HP executive hints at middleware divestiture

A senior Hewlett-Packard (HP) executive hinted Tuesday that HP may sell its middleware business and said an announcement should come soon.

HP's software strategy centers around OpenView, its IT management product, and software for telecommunication companies. The company's plans with its J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application server, a middleware product, failed, Kasper Rorsted, managing director of HP for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in an interview here Tuesday.

The comments came one day after HP announced a partnership with J2EE application server market leader BEA Systems Inc., fueling speculation that it may sell its own product. Sources have told IDG News Service that Oracle Corp. may buy HP's middleware products, which include the J2EE application server HP acquired two years ago from Bluestone Software Inc.

"We are carefully evaluating what we should do about Bluestone," Rorsted said. "We are seeing the application server market consolidate around very few players … the strategy we had was not the right one."

Instead of offering its own application server, HP seems to have opted to partner with other providers. Rorsted confirmed that HP will also work with Microsoft Corp. to offer customers .Net software. "We have a J2EE strategy and a .Net strategy. We are by far the biggest partner for Microsoft," he said.

Rorsted is attending Oracle World here as a representative of one of Oracle's largest partners. He would not explicitly say that HP will shed its application server business, but suggested that each should "draw (their) own conclusions from the BEA announcement." Details will be presented soon, Rorsted added.

On the possibility that Oracle will take over the business, Rorsted only said that he had also "heard the rumor."

HP disclosed to financial analysts earlier this month that it would "retire" its money-losing middleware products. Since then, the company has been mum on details.

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