Is HP Losing Its Agnostic Faith?

HP's boss should practice what she preaches.

In a recent address to customers and resellers, Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina declared the controversial, $19 billion acquisition of Compaq a success and took a swipe at competitors—particularly IBM—which, Fiorina said, has reverted to its 1980s services strategy of pushing its own products at the expense of customer choice.

Without taking sides regarding IBMs practices, we wholeheartedly agree that enterprises will increasingly rely on integrators and other service providers that furnish objective technology expertise. As enterprises navigate the brave, new, open world of Web services, they cant afford to be locked into a narrow range of proprietary products from a single vendor.

Unfortunately, in one of the new HPs most significant post-merger announcements to date—its recent pledge of loyalty to Microsofts .Net initiative—the company seems to be contradicting Fiorinas noble premise. Under the deal, not only will HP become an officially designated prime integrator for .Net, but Microsoft and HP also will invest $60 million to promote .Net and train 5,000 HP salespeople and 3,000 HP engineers and consultants on .Net platforms.

Many of HPs current and future customers will, for solid business reasons, choose to standardize on .Net platforms and APIs. However, while .Net incorporates many emerging industry standards, it is Microsofts proprietary version of Web services computing. By aligning itself solidly in the .Net orbit, HP may be missing a golden opportunity to firmly establish itself as an agnostic provider of quality IT advice and services and a worthy alternative to IBM Global Services.

HP should make it clear to customers and to Microsoft that its .Net investments are just one element of a broad Web services strategy and that the company, in its products and services, will support the platforms customers require. HPs recent decision to bundle BEAs WebLogic Application Server 7.0 Advantage Edition with HP-UX servers is a good, if small, step in this direction.

HPs Compaq acquisition was meant to create a strong, independent vendor with the scale and combination of hardware, software and services to meet large global enterprises needs. Fiorina must not let industry alliances deflect HP from that goal.