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HP to consolidate software products

The company will revamp its software group Tuesday in an effort to raise its products' profile and counter the increasing threat of Sun Microsystems and others.

Hewlett-Packard will revamp its software group Tuesday in an effort to raise its products' profile and counter the increasing threat of Sun Microsystems and others.

The company is expected to unify many of its software products under a new name, a source familiar with the plan said. The initiative, to be announced by HP software head Bill Russell in San Francisco, will position the products under the slogan of "services-centric computing," the source said.

The move is a counter to Sun Microsystems' iPlanet initiative, which united software for such tasks as e-mail and e-commerce from Sun and America Online's Netscape group. Sun is revamping its own software strategy to take on its chief foe, Microsoft.

IBM also has an aggressive software strategy, one that involves making all its software available on Linux computers.

Among the HP products to be lumped together are:

•  HP's loudly touted but still nascent E-speak open-source software for negotiating online deals;

•  Bluestone e-commerce software;

•  HP's XML products;

•  the Praesidium family of security products;

•  Process Manager, which governs computing operations that run on multiple interconnected servers;

•  OpenCall software for routing phone calls;

•  and the Smart Internet Usage package for measuring server use.

Loosely speaking, these products fit into the company's "middleware" product line, software that's a step above the operating system but still a basic part of computing operations.

The reorganization will not affect two of HP's high-profile software products, the source said: its OpenView management products and its HP-UX version of the Unix operating system. The MC/ServiceGuard software, which lets a job run between several computers so the failure of one isn't as much of a problem, also will not be affected.

HP's Web QoS software, which guarantees better server response to high-priority visitors to a Web site, has been folded into the OpenView group and won't be a part of Tuesday's revamp.

Analysts have criticized HP's software strategy, saying that customers prefer to have hardware and software packaged together instead of having to assemble pieces from a variety of companies' product lines.

Analysts also have noted that HP was actually one of the first, if not the first, large company to wade into the waters of Web services, which generally mean abilities such as ordering products or hosting auctions on the Internet. With E-speak, HP beat Microsoft, Oracle and Sun to the Web services--or, as HP calls them, e-services--punch.

Market watchers have praised HP's foresight in entering the Web services market but have criticized its execution.

"While HP pioneered the use of the term 'e-services' and many of the concepts now referred to as such, the company runs the risk of being the first vendor to exit this new space before it even takes off," according to a Gartner report published last fall. "Without a credible tools and software strategy to back it up, HP is headed from being a visionary in Web services to being a niche player."

Bowstreet, a longtime Web services partner of HP, Sun and other established computing players, noted that it's tough for hardware companies to market Web services well.

"Hardware companies won't be great software companies. Consulting companies won't either, though. They see 'software services' as complements to what they already sell--not as something in its own right," Bowstreet Chief Executive Bob Crowley said in a January interview. "And HP doesn't really know how to do hosting and services," two of the key components of any company's Web services strategy, Crowley added.