Compaq Offers Wireless Test Drive

The company is launching a six-month try-before-you-buy pilot program to give enterprises considering a wireless back-end infrastructure a chance to test the equipment.

Compaq Computer Corp. this week will launch a try-before-you-buy program to give enterprises considering a wireless back-end infrastructure a chance to test the equipment.

CompaqsWireless Enterprise Framework is a six-month pilot program for enterprise customers that want to try out wireless services but dont want to commit to a long-term license.

For a flat rate of $300,000, the Houston company will provide 50 iPaq Pocket PC devices with wireless cradles and 50 user licenses for wireless middleware that enables access to Lotus Notes or Microsoft Corp.s Exchange e-mail. Access is also enabled for up to six other database, supply chain management, sales force automation, field service automation or customer relationship management applications.

The middleware is based on software from Infowave Software Inc. and Shipcom Wireless Inc.; the former specializes in messaging access, while the latter focuses on enterprise applications from Siebel Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and SAP AG.

Compaq already sells Microsofts MIS (Mobile Information Server), which is middleware that provides access to Exchange data. Microsoft plans to discontinue the product next year.

Systems integrators already provide services that implement wireless middleware from third-party companies, but customized implementations can cost well over $300,000. On the other hand, supporting a single application with wireless software from the company that made that application may cost significantly less.

"If all you want to do is wirelessly enable mail and messaging, then maybe MIS is the right choice for you. If all a company wants to do is wirelessly enable a Siebel system, then go with Siebels handheld product," said Richard Stone, Compaqs manager of wireless solutions for North America. "We wanted to provide a piece of wireless middleware that can give you access to everything."

More than that, though, Compaq wants to provide hand-holding. "The market is still in an early stage," Stone said. "Seventy-five percent of the time, Im just educating a customer rather than trying to sell to them."

Officials at Hewlett-Packard Co. said enterprise customers have been wary of rolling out wireless services, prompting them last month to begin the Express Service pilot program. The service includes 50 HP Jornada devices and a 60-day license for MIS, including implementation, and costs about $100,000. Customers must pay more for customized services and access to applications beyond Exchange.

"A lot of customers are asking, Wheres the return on investment?" said Kurt Hetzel, global service manager for HP Consulting, in Mountain View, Calif. "The Express Service is a great way to get their feet wet and to start answering some of the questions that they have."

Packaged deals make it easier to keep track of wireless deployment costs, but the one thing they dont include is the cost of carrier services.

Related stories:

  • Microsoft, Intel Seek to Become Wireless Force
  • Lotus Notes to Add Support for iPaq
  • Compaq Secures Wireless e-Mail