HP Mobility Thrust Targets Small And Midsize Businesses - InformationWeek

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HP Mobility Thrust Targets Small And Midsize Businesses

Hosted E-mail and wireless-LAN assessment services are revealed, along with hints of handheld devices to come later this year.

In the first leg of what Hewlett-Packard says will be a yearlong push to expand its mobile-computing efforts in both business and consumer markets, the company concentrated this week on expanding options for small and midsize businesses.

The SMB market represents an appropriate place to inaugurate HP's "year of mobility" says Ted Clark, senior VP and general manager of the mobile-computing global business unit. SMB customers represent about 60% of all mobile-market revenue, and, according to HP industry research, mobile systems, including hardware, software, and services, are expected to grow at three times the rate of the overall IT market through 2007.

Small and midsize businesses have found that providing their workforce with mobile-computing technology is one of the easiest and quickest ways to increase overall productivity, Clark says. Several new products introduced by HP at its Mobility Summit in San Jose, Calif., this week are aimed at allowing the SMB customer to enhance its mobile-computing capabilities.

"This push is not about mobility per se, but how mobile technology can adapt to the way we work, as opposed to adapting the way we work to the technology," Clark says. "And we believe no other company spans the mobility segment like HP."

Among the new offerings is a hosted Microsoft Exchange E-mail service that allows employees access from anywhere using any Internet connection. The service is specifically designed to work well with wireless devices, such as HP's iPaq PDA, but it will work with any computing device to enable users to send, receive, view, draft, and edit in Word and Excel using a Windows interface, says Richard Stone, wireless and mobility solutions manager for HP.

Initial feedback has indicated that the service is of particular interest to companies with 50 employees or fewer and limited internal IT staffs to manage E-mail applications, Stone says. The service also appears to be attractive to large companies that acquire smaller companies of 100 to 500 employees and want to quickly bring the new workers on to an Exchange mail application.

The service is priced on a per-user, per-month basis, which is also attractive to mobile customers who may want to use the application across multiple mobile-computing devices for a single fee, he says.

The basic service offers Outlook Web Access for $3.20 per user, per month, and provides 10 Mbytes of disk space, which is generally sufficient for a typical field-service employee, Stone says. The next tier of service offers full Exchange functionality, including access to all calendars and shared files and 100 Mbytes of disk space for $11.95 per person, per month.

HP is also launching a wireless-LAN assessment service, which has been developed for SMBs, Clark says. The service can provide customers with a predictive site-survey report that delineates information on the quantity, placement, and coverage of 802.11-based wireless LAN access points. The survey can help ensure optimal connectivity throughout an environment, he says. HP also offers a wireless LAN installation and startup service.

HP Financial Services is offering a "budget stretcher" lease program. Customers can purchase up to $150,000 of equipment or service on a lease term of up to 51 months.

Although not strictly for SMB customers, HP also revealed improvements in its Mobile Printing for Pocket PC software. The latest version of the software will enable wireless printing from a handheld computing device to a variety of HP printers and non-HP printers, and is available for download at no charge.

Two new handheld introductions planned for later this year will specifically address requests HP has received from SMB customers, but will also be applicable to business and some consumer markets, Clark says. HP will introduce an iPaq Mobile Messenger, which will have the look and feel of a BlackBerry-style PDA with on-board keyboard but will utilize a Pocket PC operating system. The device will integrate wireless voice, high-speed Edge (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) data networking, and GPS navigation technologies.

The company also plans to introduce a "smart phone" later this year, which will provide converged PDA and cell-phone capability, although Clark declined to provide details.

"We are responding to requests of customers to have a product in the smart-phone market, but it is not our intention to go head to head with the Nokia's or Sony-Ericsson's in the broad-based cell-phone market," Clark says. "It will be a business tool, and we feel we are very qualified to bring that kind of product to market."

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