HP, SBC Combine IT, Communication Services

The plan is to provide joint management services for IT and telecom systems, while they move from traditional telephones to Internet telephony.
Hewlett-Packard Co. and SBC Communications Inc. on Wednesday said they would provide joint management services for information technology and telecommunication systems, as companies move from traditional telephones to Internet telephony.

Companies are gradually moving from their traditional in-house telephone switching systems to communications based on the Internet. Such systems could eventually lead to networks that provide more productive voice and data services that enable workers to access e-mail, voice mail and business documents from a variety of mobile devices.

HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and SBC, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, plan to market a joint portfolio that combines HP's IT technology and services with SBC's expertise in advanced communications networking, such as voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, the companies said a joint statement.

The offering would be designed to provide businesses with a customized set of integrated telecom and IT systems, while also providing a single point of contact for customer service and a single bill. Among the convergence technologies covered by the program are mobile data services, wide-area networks, network and infrastructure security, business continuity services and branch office operations and integration.

"As voice and data converge, enterprises face increasing complexity, and opportunity," ML Krakauer, vice president and general manager for technology services at HP, said in a statement. "HP and SBC companies, working together, can help enterprises embrace change, and open the door to very tangible business benefits."

VoIP adoption is going to stretch communications management from the IT network to the desktop, cellular phone and laptop. The technology, for example, would enable a business executive to access voice mail on a laptop and respond via email.

"If you're SBC, it's smart to make a partnership with an HP," Kate Gerwig, analyst for market researcher Current Analysis, said. "It gives customers confidence that you can handle whatever needs to be taken care of."

While the alliance looks good on paper, however, how well the two companies handle their joint customers remains to be seen, Gerwig said. Neither company can take sole ownership of a customer. Instead, they must train sales people and customer services representatives in both partners' products and services. In a sense, the two companies will need to act like one business.

"The trick will be in how they structure this to serve customers," Gerwig said. "They have to figure out who owns the customer, and the egos of both companies have to get out of the way."

In another telecom-related deal, HP on Monday said Telefonica Mobiles Espana SA had licensed an integrated package of technologies from HP and Opnet Technologies Inc. The Spanish telecommunications operator planned to use HP OpenView and Opnet's tools in monitoring network and application performance and in configuration management.

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