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HP, Sun tout wireless device efforts at Telecom 99

Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems today announced progress in their individual efforts to bring Internet services and e-commerce to cell phones and other wireless devices.

Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems today announced progress in their individual efforts to bring Internet services and e-commerce to cell phones and other wireless devices, as the companies continue to push mobile services as a potentially lucrative market for their high-end computing systems.

At the Telecom 99 conference in Geneva, Switzerland, both companies are taking the opportunity to tout their growing emphasis on providing software and hardware for companies who develop products for every aspect of wireless communication technology, including cell phone manufacturers, content providers, and service companies.

Sun announced strategic partnerships for its Java mobile phone group with Sony and Motorola. These companies will be developing wireless phones running on Sun's "write once, run anywhere," Java Software. Previously, Sun announced a similar deal with the Symbian alliance, which includes manufacturers such as Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, and Psion. Symbian companies account for almost half of the cell phones shipping today.

HP has developed an integrated software, hardware, and services bundle, dubbed the Mobile E-services platform, as well as Mobile E-Services Bazaars, conceived as a regional international trading communities for wireless technology providers. In addition, through its new Mobile E-services-on-Tap, HP will host business operations for wireless service providers, the company said.

By pushing the development of Internet services available through cell phones and other wireless devices, both HP and Sun are hoping that companies will buy heavy-duty HP or Sun servers to make these services available.

Motorola, for example, is developing a Java-enabled phone, the Timeport P1088 smart phone, which will allow service providers to offer online banking or stock trading, which require high-end server computers for the service providers. Sony, meanwhile, is showing a prototype of its CMD-CD5 smart phone which runs Credit Suisse online banking applications, the company said.

"Java technology has unique security features and dynamic download capabilities that create new business opportunities by broadening the way consumers use their mobile phones," said Mike Clary, vice president of Sun's consumer group, in a statement today. Clary cited research indicating that the a billion wireless phones are expected to be in operation by 2005.

The widespread adoption of Sun's Java in these phones will also bring in royalties for the company. Java, at least theoretically, allows software written once to run on several different devices regardless of differences in underlying hardware. So a stock quote retrieval program, for example, could run on several different manufacturers' cell phones.

HP, for its part, is hoping to plug cell phones and other gadgets into its "e-services" initiative to power commercial transactions over the Internet. The company announced in September that its "e-speak" software now works on gadgets through HP's clone of Java, called Chai.

E-speak, which isn't yet publicly available, is intended to negotiate deals automatically between computers over the Internet, and HP hopes that adoption of e-speak and e-services will boost HP computer sales.

"HP's mobile E-services initiative to enable Internet-connected mobility fits well with HP's vision of a world in which devices of all types will deliver rich services that solve specific problems," said HP's president of enterprise computing, Ann Livermore, in a statement. The first E-services Bazaar will be located in Helsinki, Finland, HP said, with additional centers expected in the United States and Asia.

To encourage use of its servers, HP is willing to strike deals with companies that provide services--stock quotes for cell phones, for example. In the deals, HP gives out servers for free and takes a cut of the profits generated by the service provider.

Sun has its own initiative to persuade "network service providers" to come into its fold. In one such partnership, Sun today announced that EDS, a company that installs complex computer systems, will use Sun servers as part of its new "iBilling" electronic billing service.