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HP, VerticalNet team on exchange software

The companies announce that they'll merge several software products to create a more flexible package for those wishing to move commerce to the Internet.

Hewlett-Packard and VerticalNet announced Monday that they'll merge several software products to create a more flexible package for those wishing to move commerce to the Internet.

The new partnership ties together computing giant HP, a company trying to spur business use of the Internet, with VerticalNet, a company whose very existence is dependent on that type of use. VerticalNet runs 57 exchanges where specific industries can buy products and services from each other.

The new software package from the companies, Open Services Marketplace, is scheduled to arrive in beta form by the end of the year, said Rajiv Gupta, general manager of HP's E-speak software division.

Current business exchanges are "hard coded" for specific jobs and business partners, Gupta said, making it difficult to add new business partners or expand what the exchange can do. The Open Services Marketplace software will make it easy to add new partners and processes and will create directories of services that companies offer.

E-speak hasn't caught on like wildfire since HP unveiled it in May 1999. The software is supposed to announce and discover services available over the Internet and cut electronic deals based on criteria such as cost and speed.

But HP realized E-speak isn't all it's cracked up to be as the company tried to rework the component supply chain of its printing division, Gupta said. "Work in that pilot project confirmed the need for something like the Open Services Marketplace," he said.

The E-speak pilot project for the printing organization is scheduled to go into use at the end of November, he added.

HP doesn't completely control E-speak. Instead, in an effort to spread the technology as widely as possible, the company released the software to the open-source community--essentially anyone who wants to participate in the software development. Roughly 30 open-source programmers outside HP contribute to the open-source effort, Gupta said.

HP is contributing its E-speak software along with its Changengine software to the project. VerticalNet is contributing its "ontology manager" and "intelligent broker" software, said Zev Laderman, head of VerticalNet's solutions division.