Let’s Get Talking

HP
has also joined the internet bandwagon with its tool e-speak
which enables websites to talk to each other.

Call it
a tradition or a coin- cidence that happens once too often,
the slow-to-react Hewlett-Packard again let the first wave
of internet craze pass. While IBM and Sun nimbly introduced
their ecommerce and Dot.Com strategies, HP decided to keep
quiet. However, it came as a big surprise when HP announced
its strategy for e-services. The surprise is not that it entered
the market late-HP trackers must be used to that by now-but
that it decided to enter a segment hitherto unassociated with
HP. The software segment. The ‘e’ in HP strategy revolves
around a tool called e-speak. Not that HP does not have a
background in software development.

But traditionally
the software tools have come only as part of their peripherals.
Of course, its OpenView software can be said to be an entry
of sorts, but none of the hype went with it. The e-speak,
with Oracle 8i as the preferred database repository, is a
technology designed to enable e-services on the web. Acting
as an ‘infomediary’, the tool can ‘talk’ to other sites and
pull up the best-fit information for the browser without having
to search the web or be flooded with search results which
the surfer has to wade through to arrive at the right site.

For instance,
if the information being sought is vendors of red chairs with
reclining backs at a particular price range, the e-speak installed
then talks to all sites that offer chairs and presents only
those sites to the browser that best fit the requirements.
Such a concept already functions in www.ariba.com, a site
dedicated to facilitating business between suppliers and buyers.
The concept of e-speak can change the way we do business on
the web. A lot of frustration in getting information from
the internet would end if this concept is successfully implemented.
Citing the example of what a travel site can do, Stacy Plemmons,
Enterprise Computing Sales Organization, HP India, says, “Instead
of you having to click so many times to find out who offers
ticketing services, hotel reservations, taxi booking, you
can just give the relevant information to one travel portal
which then does the searching and offers what best suits your
needs.

The other
advantage is if there are any last minute changes, then you
don’t have to get hassled since the service provider again
does the needful.” If there is a change in the travel program
the site can again be given the information and all the cancellations
will be taken care of. Similarly, if there has been a change
at the other end-the airways, or the hotel-those sites will
proactively pass the information back and the user will be
informed by the travel portal either through mail, phone,
mobile phone, or pager. E-speak can pull up information from
sites that have e-speak installed. Explains Ganesh Ayyar,
President, HP India, “With the kind of services possible with
this tool, websites will be compelled to have this tool installed.”
He adds,

“In fact,
Indian companies will be able to offer e-services abroad using
this tool since the tool will do all the work.” This, he feels,
will offset the fact that there is not enough local content
to push the product in the country. HP is also supplying developer
toolkits since e-speak is a barebone system that will require
customized tools for developing interfaces depending on the
type of services offered. While e-speak can be freely downloaded-ensuring
the pull for the product-the toolkits will come with a price
tag, the point of profit.

The company
is targeting financial institutions, software development
companies, manufacturing, communication companies and government
agencies in addition to educational institutions. HP is already
negotiating with a few companies for the product. To promote
this concept, HP is also financing new e-commerce enterprises
that will develop sites using e-speak for providing services,
since it feels that lack of finance is the most inhibiting
factor in the country. “We believe that companies should focus
only on their core competence-which is service-and not on
finance or technology,” says Ayyar. Some of the financing
options worked out by the company are pay per use financing,
solutions financing or venture financing.

Through
its e-speak, HP is steering clear of its traditional rivals
IBM and Sun. However, by entering into software, especially
for the internet, the company is bound to make new enemies
since barriers of entry is much less here. Financing e-ventures
and giving the tool away for free make for compelling reasons
to opt for the tool by anyone who is serious about doing business
on the web. With lower marketing costs and experience from
OpenView, the company may well pull it off.

MEERA
S
Cyber News Services

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