HP launches mobile services

Hewlett-Packard Monday got onboard the mobile e-commerce bandwagon with the introduction of new mobile e-services aimed at generating commerce on the go.

The HP Mobile Enterprise E-Commerce Solution will add mobile e-commerce functionality to an enterprise's existing e-commerce infrastructure, according to HP. Such functionality will help companies conduct business with their customers via mobile devices, including mobile phones, handhelds and laptops. The initiative will integrate BroadVision's suite of wireless applications into HP's network and systems management software OpenView Manager.

In addition to the software, HP will provide the middleware, system integration, consulting and appliances to enable a mobile e-commerce system. This mobile e-commerce solution will include selling and integrating HP servers with the software into a company's existing e-commerce infrastructure as well as selling mobile devices like HP's laptops or Jornada handhelds that transact with the HP server to conduct mobile e-commerce.

The Mobile Enterprise E-Commerce Solution initiative "will be a cross-company effort, touching all of HP's product groups, back-end and front-end businesses," said John Chapman, director of strategy and business development for HP's E-Services Solutions division.

"If a company requests mobile printing, we would be selling HP's printers as part of the mobile e-services package," he said.

The insurance industry is a good example where HP's mobile e-services package can be effectively implemented, according to Chapman. "Insurance companies have billions of dollars worth of assets," he said. "They have several thousand sales and service professionals who need on-the-go communication with the company, their customers and insurance service providers. The mobile e-commerce solution will centralize all that and also allow them to access legacy applications on corporate databases."

Real-world applications of HP's mobile enterprise e-services could be as simple as notifying a customer of changes in their flight schedules or giving them access to relevant information when in a new town, Chapman said. The mobile e-commerce system also will allow access to advanced applications such as banking and financial services, he added.

To allow for easy integration into a company's existing e-commerce system, HP's enterprise mobile e-commerce package has been developed based on open architectures and standards, such as Wireless Application Protocol and other generic technologies, Chapman said. "Proprietary technology takes a company nowhere. You can't lock in one technology over the long term," he added.

The mobile e-commerce initiative is an extension to HP's E-Garage program, which was introduced earlier this year to assist Internet start-ups, including dot-coms and application service providers to exploit the power of e-commerce over wireline devices. This initiative will extend E-Garage's focus to e-commerce over mobile devices.

Mobile e-commerce will grow in the coming years, Chapman predicted, surpassing e-commerce conducted via wireline devices. "In the next few years, the number of mobile users will cross the threshold of a billion users," he said. "When the third-generation (3G) network infrastructure is in place, the connectivity and functionality of wireless applications will improve. That is when mobile commerce will take off. We can't see it now, but it will happen."

Over 18 months of research and development has led to the creation of the enterprise mobile e-services package, and a lot of investment has gone into the initiative as well, but Chapman isn't too worried about when exactly HP's early investments in the mobile e-commerce arena may pay off.

"We worry less about when it will happen," he said. "We have to be ready for the new world. 3G networks are on the edge and the number of mobile users are growing. If we don't invest now, [an investment] a few years down the line will be too late. "

HP is partnering with companies like Aspiro, Brience and others, to provide a centralized point of contact to companies needing mobile e-commerce services, Chapman said. This eliminates the need for a customer to deal with different vendors when implementing mobile e-services into their e-commerce infrastructure.

"Problems occur when customers have to deal with many vendors. Partnering allows us to offer the customer a one-stop shop for hardware, software and consulting," Chapman said.

Hewlett-Packard, in Palo Alto, is at http://www.hp.com/.

This story, "HP launches mobile services" was originally published by Network World.

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