HP addresses mobility pain points

SHANGHAI — Shanghai has a booming economy and fast-paced lifestyle. So it’s fitting that Hewlett-Packard chose this city, with a population the size of Canada’s, to announce new mobile devices, including 13 notebook platforms, as well as mobile services and infrastructure.

Todd Bradley, executive vice-president of HP’s Personal Systems Group, told press and analysts at its Mobility Summit here that it’s no longer enough to provide great mobile products. IT companies have to provide products that allow users to connect.

Aside from its new notebooks, HP also rolled out mobile device management software, mobile messaging and collaboration services, and 3G mobile video solutions, including mobile blogging services.

HP has shifted its focus from PDAs to wireless devices, said Bradley, and is also concentrating on applications, such as e-mail, rather than voice in the enterprise space.

This comes at a time when its competitors have suffered some bad press. The recent BlackBerry network outage, for example, caused a huge headache for Research in Motion’s enterprise customers. And Palm, which changes its strategy every few months, is a fading star in the consumer space, said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group.

Is HP capitalizing on this? HP says it’s focusing on its customers as opposed to the mistakes of its competitors, said Levy. But HP probably won’t complain if its competitors stumble, he added.

“I don’t think this market knows what it wants to be when it grows up,” said Levy. And HP, he added, is following to the beat of its own drum. But at this point there’s still a relative immaturity of all platforms.

Security and support remain major pain points for many enterprises, which were drivers behind HP’s Enterprise Mobility Suite. This suite addresses one of the last remaining roadblocks of going mobile, said Levy.

The software provides over-the-air updates, device configuration, diagnostics and device security, and is meant to ease the woes of IT administrators who are tasked with managing multiple mobile devices in an enterprise environment. “This gives CIOs much more control over the broad fleets of products being deployed,” said Bradley.

The 13 new notebooks include the company’s first 20-inch diagonal entertainment laptop, dubbed “the Dragon,” which includes a remote. The HP Compaq 2710p Notebook PC combines a conventional clam-shell style with a Windows Tablet PC, with optional integrated camera for videoconferencing and image capture.

The Tablet PC in general has thus far failed to set the world on fire because of acquisition and support costs. But that’s changing. This is because, said Bradley, enterprises no longer have to support separate versions of XP, one for desktops, the other for tablets. With Microsoft’s base Vista OS, enterprises now have one common image for multiple devices.

The new convertible Tablet PC will get its feet wet in areas like sales force automation, mobile CRM and health care, since these applications are less likely to be sized down to a handheld form factor. But in order to take full advantage of Tablet PCs, said Levy, some applications will have to be pen-enabled, and this will necessitate a certain amount of redevelopment.

HP also rolled out End-User Workplace Solutions for collaboration and connectivity.

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