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HP wields branding iron in software stakes

Adios, Mercury and OpenView labels. The HP Software sticker is gaining ground as the company expands its applications efforts.

Hewlett-Packard's decision to drop the OpenView and Mercury brand names is part of efforts to build the brand equity of HP Software, says a company official.

During HP's Software Universe event earlier this month in Vienna, Austria, company officials confirmed plans to replace the Mercury and OpenView brands with the HP Software sticker.

Steve McWhirter, vice president of HP Software in the Asia-Pacific region, told ZDNet Asia that the decision stemmed from customer surveys which revealed that while the product names are well-known, "no one really cares about the brand."

For instance, he noted that survey respondents identified with OpenView's Network Node Manager much more than the OpenView brand. Similarly, the LoadRunner product name was better known than its Mercury label.

"The customers were very positive, and there was no one languishing over OpenView disappearing," McWhirter said. "This is part of broader efforts to grow HP Software as a brand--one which we intend to get equity out of."

McWhirter added that HP will continue to expand its software portfolio. "We've made up our minds that we want to in the position of managing your business holistically--whether it's applications, networks, data warehouses, and right down to devices."

To achieve that goal, he said the company will weigh the cost of development against acquisition costs. McWhirter conceded that HP has been snapping up more companies of late, but he noted that the company develops more software in-house than Oracle.

HP's intention to earn its stripes in the software business has been well-publicized, and its acquisition of Mercury Interactive for $4.5 billion is seen as a major step in that direction.

But like any acquisition it will first have to overcome a few obstacles in some areas, including technology. Although there are minimal technology overlaps between Mercury's and HP's product lines, questions remain over the future of CMDB (configuration management database) products from both companies.

According to analyst company Gartner, HP will need to decide which CMDB will be the primary source of data integration for HP's suite of products.

"(It is) likely both will survive in the short term, with each CMDB working separately to federate its products and partners," the analyst company said in a September 2006 research note. "Eventually, however, one will have to be the "uber-CMDB, and Gartner believes that it will be Mercury's because it is farther along architecturally."

McWhirter confirmed plans by HP to evolve both CMDB products into a single product eventually. "And it's probably going to be the Mercury one," he said.

Growing in Asia
According to McWhirter, the Asia-Pacific region contributes 15 percent of HP's global software revenue, and he hopes to grow that number in several ways.

For example, more cross-selling is expected across various HP business divisions. "The HP Software business has been standalone in its own right, and we're now trying to engage the rest of HP," he said.

He added that one of the reasons why IBM has been successful is that "everybody (within IBM) sells software". But in HP, "only people in the software business sell software, and that doesn't make a lot of sense", McWhirter said.

HP will also try to build a more channel-oriented business, he revealed. Previously, he explained, the company was not selective about its choice of software partners, which did not always turn out to be the right ones.

McWhirter added that HP will also strengthen existing relationships with Asian partners such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro. "We have relationships with them, but probably not at a level where we want it to be," he said.

"Before, it was just a gentleman's agreement and that's not going to get our business going," he explained. "But now, we're doing business and marketing plans (together)."

McWhirter wants HP's software business in Asia to grow to its fullest potential. "(Growing) by 20 percent year to year--if we can grow at 100 percent--is not a good result," he said.

Aaron Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Singapore.