Ready or Not, Wireless Enterprise IT is Here Today

HP's Richard Stone declares 802.11b "pervasive," commits to .Net for Web services and outlines future of HP handheld products.

LOS ANGELES—Companies are deluding themselves if they think that they can postpone wireless deployments until the technology is stable and secure, warned Hewlett-Packard Americas Richard Stone, manager for Enterprise Mobility Solutions, in his keynote speech on Wednesday at the Pocket PC Summit conference here.

"What are the two things that you do on Monday after your kids talk you into buying a wireless handheld on Saturday? First, you expense it back to the company; second, you show up at your IT guys office door and say, make this work with the company e-mail," said Stone. "The majority of handheld devices are chosen by employees, even if not necessarily paid for by the employee." Companies have to get a grip on the resulting issues of security and management today and be prepared to deal with the resulting heterogeneity for years to come, he continued.

When enterprise sites are trying to defer a wireless deployment, Stone opined, its typically because of concerns about rapidly changing standards, integration with other enterprise network services and doubts about return on investment. He suggested that the wireless standards war is over, adding, "If I can go into Frys and find it on special, its an industry standard; if its under $150, its a pervasive industry standard. That makes 802.11b a pervasive industry standard."

On the software side, Stone promised continued compatibility with current iPAQ devices in a commitment to Microsoft technologies for both the handheld and the Web services platform. Echoing other recent HP statements committing the company to Microsofts .Net, Stone called it the "open, non-proprietary" services framework and suggested that both Sun and IBM are favoring their own proprietary solutions for Web services.

Stone promised that Hewlett-Packard would be addressing other enterprise concerns with features such as "guest printing" support from wireless handhelds, and with high levels of functional integration to reduce the often-voiced complaint about whats been called the "Batmans belt" look of the modern worker carrying multiple devices. Standing in front of drawings bearing prominent labels of "CONCEPT ONLY" and resolutely refusing to comment on unannounced products, Stone nevertheless suggested that customers might soon see a fusion of the iPAQ and Blackberry into a single handheld e-mail terminal and Internet portal device.

"The evolution of the iPAQ," said Stone, "will include wireless LAN, wireless WAN and Bluetooth." It will include a removable battery, he said, mentioning one of the differences thats made HPs Jornada (soon to be phased out) preferable to Compaqs iPAQ for some buyers; it will also provide faster processors, better displays and integrated biometric identification, such as fingerprint scanning to mitigate the security risks of wireless devices that have access to enterprise networks. "170,000 devices are left on public transportation in the United States every year," he warned.

Wireless penetration is more than a matter of technology, Stone said: telecommunication carriers business models are also important factors. Voice traffic, Stone warned, is the carriers crown jewel, and they will not threaten voice service to provide data bandwidth. The more wireless infrastructure gets built by other parties, as on enterprise or academic campus networks or in retail facilities such as coffee shops, the sooner users will enjoy pervasive access.

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