HP Tries to Connect With Wireless Devices

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2001-02-26

Carving itself a more obvious niche in the wireless space, Hewlett-Packard Co. has launched a business organization focused on handheld devices.

The Embedded and Personal Systems unit will be its own entity, the fifth of Hewlett-Packards business units. As it comprises 400 of HPs 88,500 employees, the unit will be decidedly smaller than the others—at least at first.

Iain Morris, who until last week led Motorola Inc.s North American Personal Communications Sector, will head the HP group. EPS will develop handheld devices, "smart" appliances and embedded software, said officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

HP also seems to be taking sides in the argument over whether its better to add PDA (personal digital assistant) capabilities to cell phones or cell phone capabilities to PDAs. Later this year, the company plans to add wireless voice network support to its Jornada line of handheld organizers.

At the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, last week, HP announced plans to develop a Jornada device that will work as a cell phone. Like other Jornada devices, this will run on Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system. The new Jornada will include a built-in Wireless Application Protocol browser. The device will support the GSM (Global Standard for Mobility) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) in Europe, where it is due for release in the fall. The product should appear later in the year in the United States, but officials did not say which networks will support the device here.

GPRS is unlikely to be pervasive for a few years, and there is little GSM coverage in the United States. HP did not release pricing for the new Jornada.

For the back end, HP announced an "architecture" that supports voice and data services over third-generation wireless networks. Comprising server and storage hardware as well as middleware that supports wireless devices, the back-end initiative will focus on mobile e-commerce and will include the ability to render data suitable for a variety of devices.

HP is also working with Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc.; the companies have created a consortium to develop a standard for e-service payments. Siemens Mobile Information Group announced last week plans to support Symbian Ltd.s Epoc platform for an upcoming line of smart phones.

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