A licensing deal giving Samsung SDS Co. Ltd. control of Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenMail e-mail system gives the Korean technology company a solid base for its planned unified communications initiative and HP a way of dumping a fading business.
But the big winners in the deal could be the more than 5 million OpenMail users, who were faced with having to find a new e-mail system.
Earlier this year, HP notified users that after the 7.0 release, the company would no longer develop the 12-year-old technology. That left companies such as Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. in a bind.
The Milwaukee company has more than 20,000 employees using OpenMail. After HPs decision, Northwestern began looking at alternatives and was considering Microsoft Corp.s Outlook client and Exchange server. The Samsung deal gives the company another thing to think about, said Erich Berman, advanced technology consultant at Northwestern and an eWeek Corporate Partner.
"It adds a wrinkle because we understood the direction [HP] was planning, and now the direction is different," Berman said.
The deal, announced here last week at Comdex, allows Samsung SDS to develop messaging systems built on HPs Unix- and Linux-based e-mail products. Executives with the Seoul-based company said the first incarnation of its new product, called Samsung Contact, will mirror most of what OpenMail 7.0 offers.
HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will continue supporting OpenMail for five years, by which time OpenMail users will have to adopt Samsung Contact or another e-mail system.
The eventual goal is to make Samsung Contact a unified communications platform capable of delivering any message on any device and anywhere. Samsung expects the unified communications market to grow from $2.8 billion now to $31 billion by 2006.
David Ferris, president of Ferris Research Inc., was skeptical Samsung SDS could make a mark in the e-mail market or that it could pull off a unified communications initiative.
Samsung "will be constrained by the real problems people have had with integrating e-mail systems with telephone systems," said Ferris, in San Francisco. "Theres little demand for unified messaging in the enterprise, in part because of the difficulties in integrating the voice side with e-mail."