Hewlett-Packard Co plans to announce its Information Utility strategy today at the Mission Critical Computing Conference in Palm Springs – an attempt to regain the perception that it has a clear vision of its future technology direction. HP says it did have a clear strategy in place during the old client/server days, but then Sun came along with Java and Jini and took away all the limelight. Information Utility sounds uncomfortably like the Open Group’s Dialtone initiative, centering round a permanent connection to the internet that information appliances can be plugged into, just like the electricity or telephone networks. But unlike the Open Group, HP says it has the technology to turn its vision into something real, developed at its HP Labs think tank in Palo Alto, California. Even so, it won’t be talking technology today, and says it won’t be ready to do so for another six months. One of the ideas is to end the current necessity to upgrade hardware every time a new application comes out. HP says that under the new scheme, a new application would run on existing older hardware, through client appliances that plug into the utility server and network system. Currently, says HP’s VP and group marketing manager Nick Earle it’s like buying a new telephone every time you want a new telephone service. What HP will be showing today are some prototype appliances that might end up being plugged into the information utility. One is the already announced Capshare portable scanner, which can capture scans of hard copy material in a few seconds and transmit them to a PC via wireless link. The device, invented by Ross Allen from HP Labs, will be available in December for $700, and will be sold by a new Portable Capture and Communications division at HP, based in Colorado. HP expects the device to do well. And Bill Russell, VP and general manager of HP’s enterprise systems group will also show a tiny video camera embedded within a watch that can produce some 40 seconds of video and transfer it via infrared connection to a computer. There will also be a smart card based global positioning system and monitoring card, which could be used by a parent to track the whereabouts of a child, or used as a heart monitoring system for a patient with heart trouble, which could notify doctors of any problem before the patient was aware of anything wrong. HP is actually less interested in the appliances themselves than in the tidal wave of data they could potentially unleash on the network, which will need its large systems to support it.