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HP quietly begins Weblog experiment

By , IDG News Service
November 23, 2004 08:25 AM ET

IDG News Service - HP has become the latest IT vendor to dip its toes in the wild world of Weblogging, or blogging.

Over the last few weeks, a handful of developers in the company's software development group have quietly begun publishing their regular musings on such technical issues as service-oriented architectures and XML. But the company is now showing signs of following competitors like Microsoft and Sun and opening up its blogging efforts to a wider range of company employees.

HP's blog experiment was launched Nov. 8, as a way to better communicate with the technical community, said David Gee, vice president of marketing for HP's management software organization. "We wanted to foster communication with particular audiences," he said. "In this case, it's with the developers and the managers in the technical space."

The company rolled out the blogs in a very low-profile fashion, Gee said. "We buried it in the developer section by design because we want to get our feet wet."

Within the next few months, however, Gee expects employees working on a number of different areas to get involved in blogging. "I think the compiler guys, the operating system guys, and the Linux guys within HP will use this medium much more aggressively," he said.

HP comes late to the corporate blogging game. Microsoft began publishing employee blogs on its Microsoft Developer Network Web site in January, and Sun followed suit a few months later with the launch of a Web site where any Sun employee can create a public-facing Weblog. In April, IBM opened up part of its DeveloperWorks Web site to a small number of technical bloggers.

Blogging has become a way of reaching audiences that may be unreachable with conventional marketing techniques, said Amy Wohl, president of Wohl Associates, an industry analyst firm based in Narberth, Penn. "This is all about getting to an audience who ordinarily wouldn't read anything that you put out there," she said. "They don’t read marketing material."

Sometimes that audience is reached by making statements that would not normally appear on corporate Web sites. IBM engineer Bill Higgins, for example, recently dissected some widely publicized comments by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, accusing the software giant's chief executive officer of making "specious" arguments against open source "to bolster Microsoft and spread (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about Open Source."

HP and Sun are both experimenting with blogs that target less technical audiences as well. Andy Lark, Sun's vice president of global communications and marketing, regularly posts his observations on media issues. And the blog of Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz, the most prominent of Sun's blog sites, has become a must-read for members of the press and analyst community looking for Schwartz's views on industry events.

Competitors have also taken notice. Schwartz's Sept. 16 comments on the "death" of HP's Unix operating system, HP-UX, elicited a Sept. 28 letter from HP's legal department calling on Sun to retract Schwartz's comments. Sun's lawyers responded with a letter of their own, arguing that the contents of Scwhartz's blog were merely his opinion.

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