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Sun, HP pour more money into start-ups

Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard take equity stakes in a slew of new companies, as more computer makers play the role of venture capital fund.

In a recent flexing of corporate muscle, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard have taken equity stakes in a slew of new companies.

Sun announced investments in five widely different companies, three of which have filed to go public, the company said. And HP invested $50 million in Primus, a company that will expand its e-commerce hosting facilities with HP equipment, HP said.

The investments are part of a burgeoning business done by computing companies beginning to act more like venture capitalists. Sun, HP, IBM and Compaq all are trying to woo start-ups and Internet companies as fast as possible. Sun earlier this week added another $200 million to expand its venture fund activities to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Sun's investments cover a wide range of companies:

• Resonate, which develops high-end software that shares jobs across numerous computers to make sure computing services are always available.

• Beatnik, founded by musician Thomas Dolby, which develops software to embed sound into Web pages that respond to a visitor's mouse movements;

• Graviton, which provides wireless sensors and monitors that send data over the Internet;

• Icarian, which designs software to help employers find the right employees and vice-versa.

• Xacct Technologies, which creates software for monitoring Internet use for accurate accounting and billing.

Xacct, Resonate and Beatnik all filed in March to go public.

Primus will house HP's "Commerce for the Millennium" program, which lets small and medium-sized businesses use e-commerce software set up in advance. Primus will expand its data centers in Western Europe, Australia, Japan and Brazil with the $50 million, which HP is providing through a convertible debt arrangement, HP said.