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HP ups e-services plan with Delphi investment

Hewlett-Packard invests in Delphi Information Systems, an insurance software maker, as part of Delphi's plan to create a new insurance Web site.

Hewlett-Packard has invested in Delphi Information Systems, an insurance software maker, as part of Delphi's plan to create a new insurance Web site.

The new Web site, Ebix.com, allows insurance providers to bid for customer contracts. As reported yesterday, HP will provide hardware, software, and consulting services to power the site in exchange for a fraction of the revenues it generates--the business method that's part of HP's new "e-services" plan.

With its e-services plan, HP has been giving away these goods in exchange for just a portion of the money the recipients earn by charging for commercial transactions over the Internet. This time, there's also an investment as part of the package.

Keith Melbourne, group marketing manger for HP's Internet business unit, declined to say how much HP invested, but said it was "a moderate stake, but not insignificant." HP has an option to increase its investment in the next two years, but it won't become a majority owner, he said.

The Ebix site will be up September 8, said Delphi president Robin Raina, and will be open to participation from all insurance companies. Customers looking for insurance won't have to pay, but insurance companies using the service will be charged $100 a year to register for the service and between 50 cents and $20 for different types of transactions using the system, Raina said.

HP will get a fraction of these revenues, Melbourne said.

HP has worked several deals as part of its "e-services" initiative, but has taken equity stakes in companies only in some of them, including Security First, BroadVision, and Bea Systems.

Other e-services partners include Ariba.com, Engineering Automation Incorporated, Telenomics, and opened doors for HP at places such as Wal-Mart, HP executives have said.

The Ebix site will provide insurance companies and customers detailed information on each other to help them decide how to make bids and close deals, Raina said.

The system will use HP's Intel-based Netserver systems running Microsoft Windows and database programs. In addition, it uses HP software to secure the site and ensure that priority customers can get through quickly.

The site will be promoted through an ad campaign in magazines, radio, billboards, and prominent Web sites, and HP will help with marketing as well, the companies said.

HP wants to boost the Ebix system later with its e-speak software, which currently is under development. HP believes e-speak will spur commercial use of the Internet for jobs where it says its servers and consulting services have a competitive edge.