HP Mobile Push Slowed by Reorg, Partner Woes

HP is wooing wireless enterprise customers, but an internal reorganization and continued haggling with some partners may bog down its efforts.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is wooing wireless enterprise customers, but an internal reorganization and continued haggling with some partners may bog down its efforts.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company is quietly moving its mobility group out of its Enterprise Solutions Group and into the office of Chief Technology Officer Shane Robison. HP officials acknowledged the move but were reluctant to discuss details, saying only that it will be more efficient having mobility in a central location rather than spread among HPs four solutions groups.

"It allows us to have multibusiness opportunities now," said Jim Ganthier, global director for enterprise mobility solutions at HP.

The organizational shift, however, is having a negative effect on HP partners, some of which complain that HP is reluctant to talk about its enterprise wireless strategy until the reorganization is settled.

HP officials insist that even while the mobility group is being shuffled, the company is keeping its wireless efforts focused on three areas: mobile offices, public WLANs (wireless LANs) and vertical markets.

While software application companies such as Oracle Corp. roll out their own wireless middleware to support their applications, HP instead has started to work closely with Extended Systems Inc., in Boise, Idaho, to co-market ESIs XtndConnect Server wireless application access software. It also plans to use ESIs expertise for consulting.

To facilitate the ESI efforts, HP is developing a unit within the mobility group to focus on vertical markets, officials said. But for starters, it is targeting companies that want XtndConnect for access to e-mail and enterprise applications.

The company also has plans for roaming technology that will make it easier to move between WANs and public WLANs with the same devices, HP officials said.

ESI, for its part, next spring will introduce Version 4.0 of XtndConnect. The upgrade will incorporate technology the company acquired when it bought ViaFone Inc. last August and combines enterprise application access and group synchronizing software with offline viewing.

Potential customers said it is encouraging to see HP address the wireless market.

"Its better for us to have someone like HP than somebody out of business," said Erich Berman, an advanced technical consultant in the IS department at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., in Milwaukee. Northwestern launched an internal wireless pilot last year, which was technically successful, but the small company providing the server software went out of business, and the company that bought that company also went out of business.

That said, Berman, who is also an eWeek Corporate Partner, questioned the wisdom of HPs reorganization. "I would think that if they want to target the enterprise, theyd want to keep mobility in the Enterprise Solutions Group," he said.

Once the organizational issues are settled, one way HP said it hopes to attract the enterprise is through services and billing deals with carriers. In an effort to help IT managers better plan annual wireless budgets, HP said it hopes to offer customers per-user, per-month unlimited-data-service plans through its sales force.

HP officials acknowledged that carriers dont like fixed pricing even though thats what corporate customers want. HP continues to push for it.

"The operators are typically flexible in large corporations," said Bob Simmons, global director of enterprise mobility at HP. "Theyre going to have to give in. If the salesperson can rack up $800 or $900 in data charges each month, no confident IT person is going to subject their customers to that."