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HP forays into WLAN, messaging markets

HP has launched a new WLAN management service and a unified messaging platform. The offerings are designed to help enterprises manage their infrastructures, but an analyst says the products may struggle.

Hewlett-Packard Co. on Wednesday announced the availability of a new wireless LAN management service and a new unified messaging product, but both are likely to face resistance from potential customers.

HP's new wireless LAN service, Mobility Support Services, is designed to help enterprises deploy and manage wireless networks. The offering includes a help desk service for wireless LAN infrastructures, which aids IT managers in troubleshooting network and application problems. As part of that package, HP is also providing a network monitoring and performance reporting service tailored not only for wireless LANs, but also for corporate databases, applications and Web servers.

Mobility Support Services is also designed to help companies manage devices. HP plans to provide companies with an outsourced help desk that can help end users fix problems with Windows-based devices and mobile applications. Additionally, it includes software that automates many device management functions.

Separately, HP announced a unified messaging platform, which is the result of a partnership with Swedish telecommunications vendor Ericsson Inc.

The platform enables businesses to combine voice mail, e-mail and services from wireless carriers. All interaction is routed through a central switch, allowing for bulk billing, which can help bring down telecommunications costs, said Joy King, a spokesperson for HP's network and service provider solutions group. The platform also helps companies reduce the costs of adding, dropping and reconfiguring users' accounts.

HP has deployed the platform in one of its offices in Sweden, and reports that it saved 38% on its telecommunications bills and management costs.

Some businesses may be drawn to each of these products, said Mike Disabato, a senior analyst with the Midvale, Utah-based research firm Burton Group. The WLAN service may appeal to a business with remote offices that it is unwilling or unable to manage. Small or medium-sized businesses may see some value in this service as well, he said, since they may lack the technical expertise necessary to manage a complex WLAN.

Disabato said the unified messaging platform would appeal to some businesses for the same reasons.

But Disabato said that, as a trend, unified messaging has already come and gone more than once in the last decade. However, now, with the ability to integrate presence-based applications such as instant messaging, it may be more useful.

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Still, HP has not made its name as a messaging vendor, and the company may find this market challenging, he added. And despite its presence on the device side of the wireless market, HP has also been largely absent from the WLAN infrastructure market. In addition, many companies are often nervous about handing network monitoring over to an outside company.

"It is hard enough for other wireless LAN vendors to compete with Cisco. Right now, if you are not a WLAN switch vendor, people are not talking to you any more," Disabato said.

While there may be a market for each of these products, HP will have to work hard to prove that it is the company that can best provide these kinds of products, Disabato said.

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