HP plays Internet waiting game

Hewlett-Packard, somewhat quiet in the Internet arena, is deliberately holding back until the market shows a little more maturity, says a company spokesman.

Hewlett-Packard, somewhat quiet in the Internet arena, is deliberately holding back until the market shows a little more maturity, says Internet solutions spokesman Jan Silverman.

"Right now only a very small percentage of a company's IT budget is being spent on the Internet," says Silverman. "We are focussing on where the market will be in a few years, when some of the fundamental issues have been solved."

Silverman says HP sees security as the prime inhibitor to more widespread use of the Net for business.

"We are working on a number of projects designed to overcome the perceived reluctance of financial institutions to release personal financial data over the Net."

One such initiative is the use of "smart cards", which contain chips with encrypted security codes. The user simply plugs the card into a reader on the computer (or perhaps even the keyboard); access to sensitive data is then provided.

Release of this technology is still in the future, according to Silverman, with development proceeding on low-cost readers and how they can be distributed cheaply.

Another security initiative is the virtual vault. The virtual vault will allow an organisation's customers to access information on internal systems for which they are cleared to access. The virtual vault is already in beta test on a version of HP-UX Unix.

Other Internet products include DEPOT/J, an object-oriented dynamic data warehouse featuring both enhanced security and the ability to update the corporate database from the client level. DEPOT-J can access data from multiple native data stores and plug the data into pre-formatted applications.

In line with its current strategy, HP has developed a strategic link with Netscape to provide technical support and collaboration in areas such as communications and printing technology. "This alliance gives us some capacity to serve our current customer base," says Silverman. "And it gives us the flexibility to develop our own products."

Silverman says most organisations are struggling to overcome the "home page hump"--they are still trying to work out where and how to best incorporate the Internet into their business plans.

"We work in accelerated atmosphere of Internet time where one Internet day is equal to about seven normal days. It keeps us on our toes and dictates that we design our strategy for the future. Even so, we still can barely keep up with the pace of the market," says Silverman.

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