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October 11, 1999

Computer Giants Head for Silicon Valley, Finland

By CBR Staff Writer

By Phil Jones in Geneva

Carly Fiorina, the new CEO of the new Hewlett-Packard put it succinctly: Finland is the Silicon Valley of mobility. And IBM appears to agree with her. In an effort to reserve their place on the fast train headed for the next generation mobile internet, the two US computer giants yesterday announced alliances with Nokia Oy which, as the clear global leader in mobile terminals is the Intel of mobility valley, and quite possibly its Microsoft too.

Hewlett-Packard’s tie with Nokia is not entirely new, and was only one of 24 links to communications companies that the Palo Alto computer firm unveiled yesterday as part of a Mobile E-Services initiative. Earlier this year, at the same time as it announced its decision to split off its test and measurement business to create a new telecoms infrastructure business, Agilent Technologies, HP outlined its future as an E-Services company. E-Services represents our internet strategy for the entire Hewlett-Packard corporation, and mobility is a key aspect of that strategy said Fiorina.

As well as Nokia, HP has recruited companies such as BEA, the enterprise application integration vendor, Brokat, the internet security company, and another mobile phone giant, Motorola. But it is Nokia which Fiorina indicated would be the linchpin of HP’s efforts to establish itself as mobile e-commerce and associated e-services facilitator, combining its own E-Speak services broker software with Nokia’s wireless infrastructure and terminal expertise to provide a one-stop shop for mobile commerce customers.

HP already bundles E-Speak with Nokia’s WAP 1.1 server on HP-UX, and will also offer E-Speak with the Nokia WAP server on Solaris, Windows NT and Linux. And, as a means of catalyzing investment in mobile services by content providers and e-commerce businesses, Nokia and HP will move to offer off-the-shelf mobile e-service applications and components. These products will be available for download from an E-services Bazaar located in Finland, which will also be the home of HP’s own E-services Innovation Center.

HP and IBM have both been attracted to Nokia by the Finnish company’s leadership in mobile communications, and both hope their association with the company will give them an edge in addressing a wireless connectivity market which is projected to be worth $80bn by 2010. Significantly, the two major players in the PC market will have both also noted that mobile terminal sales already outstrip those of desktops, and that half of the world’s predicted population of 1 billion mobiles will be data enabled by 2003.

For its part, IBM has been ramping up a new Pervasive Computing division to address the mobility issue, and this division yesterday issued news of its own alliance with Nokia, which builds an a relationship which recently saw the two companies cooperate to build a mobile e-banking system for Handelsbanken, Sweden’s major retail bank.

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Now IBM has announced that it will market and distribute the Nokia WAP server on its NetFinity line of Windows NT platforms, and that it has licenced the Nokia WAP code to integrate it with its own emerging portfolio of pervasive computing middleware and applications. As part of a global partnership that will accelerate the growth of the wireless Internet IBM said both companies will work to develop enterprise WAP solutions, extending e-business beyond the PC to a variety of mobile devices.

With two of the world’s biggest computer manufacturers in its WAP camp, Nokia’s chances of winning the lion’s share of carrier and corporate WAP business now look rosy. However, one question mark over the two US companies commitment to all things Finnish stands against their support for Epoc, the mobile device operating system being developed by Symbian, in which Nokia is a leading shareholder.

In IBM’s case Mark Bergman, IBM’s general manager for pervasive computing, said that the company certainly supports Symbian and will seek to provide links to Epoc as part of a larger strategy to provide access to any service from any kind of device. But, Bergman added, we may or may not build internet devices, and IBM is likely to wait for Symbian and its partners to bring product to market before making a decision on whether to develop Epoc applications.

This less than ringing endorsement for what many perceive to be the chief obstacle to Microsoft’s plans for extending its desktop dominance to the pockets and handbags of business users and consumers, was also reflected in HP’s response. In a response which may not have been as sure footed as she would have wished, Fiorina said outright that HP has no plans to build Symbian devices, but remained committed to its Windows CE-based Jornada line of handheld computers. However, an HP spokesperson later tried to soften this line by suggesting that Fiorina’s remarks did not rule out a future change of heart. Our record shows that we are always open to supporting standards, he said.

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