HP's electronic business strategy focuses on a networked world

Hewlett-Packard has announced a series of partnerships and technology frameworks aimed at getting businesses connected to one another over vast 'extranets' on the Internet.

Hewlett-Packard has announced a series of partnerships and technology frameworks aimed at getting businesses connected to one another over vast "extranets" on the Internet.

Called the electronic business framework, HP's broad vision of companies connecting with each other, customers and suppliers rests on its announcement yesterday to "Web-enable" every one of its products -- from servers and printers to management and security software and middleware, says Rick Belluzzo, executive vice-president and general manager of HP's computer organisation, in a presentation to a group of several hundred executives.

"Our goal is to merge the system world (based on Unix and mainframes) with the PC world via the Internet," Belluzzo says. "Our strategy is to blur the lines between home, business, workgroup and enterprise computing."

To do this, HP is heralding an "extended enterprise" approach which brings together companies with their remote workers, consumers and business partners, Belluzzo says.

While the company isn't releasing any new products per se, it has announced several "frameworks" which bring its existing products and consulting services together into packages businesses can use to build and/or extend their intranets, Belluzzo says.

"This announcement is more of a bringing together of products and services HP has already announced," says Jonathan Steel, an analyst at International Data UK. "However, it is nonetheless very important because HP is one of the few companies that is really starting to understand electronic business -- which includes, but doesn't stop at, electronic commerce."

The three frameworks announced are the HP Process Management Development framework, the AdminFlow framework and Internet Marketing framework.

The HP Process Management Development framework includes a set of core software products and a tool kit which developers can use to create intranet software applications. The framework establishes three separate development cycles -- business processes, resource assignments and work items -- which can be independently modified. An example of how a customer may use the framework is to create a virtual supply chain which links manufacturers, distributors and customers through a common set of processes, regardless of underlying technology infrastructure, officials say.

Designed to help companies deploy administrative business processes, the AdminFlow framework is a development environment based on HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Visual Basic forms technology with a process management server on the backend. Developers can create company-specific administrative forms, such as expense reports and human resources information, which can be viewed using any Java-enabled Web browser, officials says. AdminFlow runs on HP-UX and Windows NT and can be integrated with any existing email system or intranet.

The last framework, called Internet Marketing, is based on HP's OpenMail and process-management technologies. Companies can use the framework to build external Web pages which deliver personalised information to individual customers based on their preferences. These "self-service" pages will help customers get information without having to call a helpdesk, while at the same time help companies track customer problems and interests, HP says. Internet Marketing will run on HP-UX and Windows NT and incorporates HP's Virtual Vault security protocol.

HP plans to deliver these packaged services and technologies in 1997, Belluzzo says.

In addition to the frameworks announced yesterday, HP also says it will partner with several companies to add capabilities to its own offerings. HP will work with VeriFone to market and sell Internet payment solutions based on the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol being jointly developed by Visa and MasterCard. The company will also partner with BroadVision to deliver the BroadVision One-to-One family of personalised Internet applications on the HP-UX platform and with Open Market to create a joint merchant storefront application.

Underlying HP's overall vision is its "commitment to open standards," Belluzzo says. HP has pledged anew that its electronic business frameworks will work across platforms by using the Internet as a base. Belluzzo admits that HP hasn't delivered 100% on its promise to make the Internet "core to its business mode", but says the new frameworks will finally make the networked world and HP products work "synergystically".

Hewlett-Packard is on the Web at http://www.hp.com.

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