HP And Microsoft Tout Mobility In Geneva

Among other things, HP promotes laptops that can be configured with wireless technology and Microsoft pushes its Wireless Provisioning Services.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 13, 2003

4 Min Read

Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft took advantage of the platform of the ITU Telecomm World 2003 conference, which opened Sunday in Geneva, Switzerland, to unveil mobile and wireless products and services.

For its part, HP on Sunday advanced its plan to push hard on the wireless and mobile front by announcing a slew of consumer and business products and solutions.

Among them is a new line of business laptops that can be configured with wireless technology ranging from Bluetooth to 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g connectivity. The Compaq Business Notebook nc6000 and nc8000, as well as what HP is calling the Compaq Mobile Workstation nw8000, can be configured with a variety of wireless technologies, embedded security chips to protect the portables and the data on them, and an optional Smart Card reader for deploying additional security applications.

The new models range in price from $1,699 to $2,999.

HP also unveiled Mobile Printing for Pocket PC, software that allows printing from Pocket PC 2002 and 2003 devices to networked and wireless-connected printers. The software will be available for free downloading from the HP Web site on Oct. 20.

On the carrier side, HP launched its cx2600 Integrity server, which it claims is the first 64-bit Itanium-based server for telecom network and service providers. According to HP, the cx2600 will support network and wireless tasks such as fraud management, operations and business support services, and mobility management, as well as carry voice, data, and other media services.

Among its other rollouts in Switzerland, HP launched a $149 Bluetooth printer adapter for USB- and parallel-capable printers that makes them available for print chores from Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, and it added support for Wi-Fi Protected Access to three models in its JetPrint printer servers.

Microsoft, meanwhile, revealed its Wireless Provisioning Services on Monday in Geneva, where company chairman Bill Gates took the stage in a keynote to tout the upcoming update to Windows XP.

Wireless Provisioning Services, which will be available in the first quarter of next year as a downloadable upgrade to Windows XP for users and as part of a service pack update for Windows Server 2003 for wireless Internet service providers and enterprise IT, will create a Microsoft standard for accessing 802.11 hot spots, Gates said.

The idea, he said, was to make it easier for users to sign on to wireless services at public and private access points, simplify the chore of provisioning and managing hot spots, and make sure data was kept secure.

Wireless Provisioning Services lets wireless network providers and enterprises send provisioning and configuration information to a client as it connects to the Internet or a corporate wireless network, to provide a uniform sign-on experience, Microsoft says.

The Wi-Fi Alliance has previously been the sole standard bearer for 802.11x wireless connectivity, and Microsoft's entry may muddy the waters. Wireless Provisioning Services is tied to Windows Server 2003 on the back end and Microsoft's XP operating system on the client side.

The proprietary nature of the Wireless Provisioning Services standard may run counter to the open-standard approach of the Wi-Fi Alliance, says Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Microsoft Monitor, a research arm of Jupiter Research that tracks Microsoft. "When a company [like Microsoft] introduces a standard specific to its own technology, things shift," he says.

"I'd encourage any company investigating WPS to make sure Microsoft's technology appropriately conforms with Wi-Fi Alliance standards," Wilcox says. "And I'd find out if there are any client access licenses involved with this."

Microsoft also revealed a partnership with Vodafone, saying it would be a way for more developers to shift Web services running on PCs to mobile phone clients and blend the two platforms.

The joint effort aims to help create mobile Web-services standards that utilities an XML architecture so that a larger number of developers can create software and solutions for both the PC and mobile devices. Among the targets: bringing mobile messaging, location, and authentication to PCs.

"By bringing mobile services into the PC world, Microsoft and Vodafone are offering developers the opportunity to create greater-value services for customers and new revenues," says Ian Maxwell, Vodafone's group strategic relationship director, at a conference keynote.

Microsoft and Vodafone said they would roll out a road map for the standards' specifications at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, which is slated to open in Los Angeles on Oct. 27. The pair will also provide a white paper detailing their views on PC-mobile convergence at the conference.

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