HP talks up E-speak technology

HP says software code-named Fremont will glue together all sorts of different computers and software and further HP's grand plan to make money off Internet transactions.

Stephen Shankland
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Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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PALO ALTO, California--Hewlett-Packard today unveiled its "E-speak" technology, software that will glue together all sorts of different computers and software and further HP's grand plan to make money off sophisticated transactions on the Internet.

E-speak will allow computers or service centers on the Internet to connect, exchange information, and take actions automatically. The technology, code-named Fremont, is available to HP's partners today, and will be available as open source for all comers in October under the open-source model, which allows unlimited sharing of the original software code, said Rajiv Gupta, general manager of HP's open services

"It's going to function as the universal language for e-services on the Net," said Ann Livermore, chief executive of HP's enterprise computing organization, speaking to hundreds assembled today at HP's headquarters here.

"We think it's going to have the same profound catalytic effect" as the Web's HTML language had on the first years of the Internet, she said.

HP will spend $150 million in coming months on advertising for the e-services plan, said Nick Earle, a senior vice president of Livermore's enterprise computing group.

But HP faces serious competition as it embarks on its new course. IBM already is boasting about how much money it makes off its Internet products and services, and analysts say Sun Microsystems has much of the momentum when it comes to building the Internet infrastructure. Compaq, though struggling to integrate high-powered systems with its PC business, has its own plans for helping companies tie up with the Internet.

With the open-source method, HP will be able to ensure that the E-speak technology is widely adopted as well as improved, HP executives said.

Although HP believes E-speak will be more valuable the more widespread it is, the company doesn't expect some major competitors, including IBM, Sun, or Compaq, to show much interest, said Earle.

HP says it won't make money directly from E-speak, but rather from the businesses that E-speak helps out. For one thing, HP will be able to sell computers to companies that use E-speak to support their own e-services initiatives. For another thing, HP is cutting deals, sometimes giving away hardware, to skim off some of the revenues from companies that offer e-services.

In one type of e-service, users will rent--rather than buy--applications, computing power, or data storage capacity from third parties. Under one such deal, HP has pledged hardware to Qwest, which will host complex software from SAP and Siebel. In turn, they will develop rental applications.

In another similar deal announced today, HP and Microsoft will develop a pay-as-you-go e-mail service using Microsoft Exchange software hosted at Internet service provider PSINet. In that deal, HP will sell PSINet servers, help to sell the service to existing corporate customers, and sell the help of HP's services organization to aid companies changing to the new setup, said Nigel Ball, general manager of HP's e-services division.

In another e-service deal, HP will sell equipment to the Internet Travel Network, help market the site, and take a percentage of the revenue from the transactions site. The Internet Travel Network was looking for technology such as E-speak, said Gadi Maier of the online travel agent.

E-speak will help ITN offer fancy features that extend well beyond just booking flights and hotel rooms, Maier said. For example, E-speak will let ITN automatically page a traveler to notify the person that a flight had been canceled, offer several new flights based on the traveler's preferences, and send a message to a hotel notifying them that the traveler will arrive late.