Compaq to launch business-to-employee portal

The PC maker will launch a new information portal, dubbed B2E, or business to employee, along with content providers American Express, CMGI, Intel, Microsoft, and Siebel.

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Plotting its resurgence, Compaq Computer is betting specialized Internet information services will be essential to selling PCs in the future.

The Houston-based PC maker today said it would launch a new Web portal, dubbed B2E, or business to employee, along with content providers American Express, CMGI, Intel, Microsoft, and Siebel.

Similar to Web portals being engineered by other companies, B2E will offer specialized information and services to a variety of business customers. The idea behind these products is to make the PC, and a particular brand of PC, a hub for a user's technology and business needs.

Compaq today also unveiled the iPaq, a low-cost, simplified business computer that it hopes will bolster its fortunes in that market. The new PC and portal come at a crucial time for the company. Business sales are vital to Compaq, which recently lost its leading market share in the U.S. to rival Dell Computer for the first time.

The business to employee market is "vastly underserved...on the Web today," said Mike Winkler, senior vice president and group general manager of Compaq's commercial PC group.

There are thousands of consumer sites, "but there is not a single-source destination aggregating meaningful content today and services for specific job functions," Winkler claimed. B2E, described by Winkler "as an Internet productivity lifeline," will not go live until the first quarter of 2000.

Intel and Microsoft will provide the initial technology content, with CMGI taking a broader role by providing low-cost Internet access, tools for distance learning and research, and additional services.

Compaq and its partners are adopting a services approach that will offer users not just information, but tools specific to their job functions. The sub-portal for IT (information technology) experts, for instance, will include fast access to software patches, drivers, and updates for all manufacturers products, not just Compaq's.

Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Products Group, said Internet services will be the essential force driving new PC business.

There are two types of businesses in the future, Gelsinger said, "Those that are dying, and those that have embraced and accepted the Internet at the core of their processes."

Microsoft's participation signals a change in the company's direction, said Rick Belluzzo, group vice president of the company's Consumer and Commerce Group.

"The vision of the company from the very beginning was a PC on every desk and a PC in every home," said Belluzzo. "But recently people are looking at that vision and saying its not expansive enough, that the world is changing."

"We have to think of the software as the service," said Belluzzo, who added that in the future, "everyone will think about service and not the software."

Belluzzo foresees software being delivered on any device in what he called "the PC-plus era," a computing shift Microsoft is preparing for.

Compaq is betting its future on iPaq and its successors and the bundling of Internet services, Winkler said.