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HP plans major enterprise push for TouchPad

webOS will be blended with HP enterprise software

By , Network World
July 01, 2011 12:17 PM ET

Network World - HP straddles two worlds: enterprise systems and consumer electronics. Its new TouchPad tablet is intended to satisfy the needs of both. But you'll have to look harder and wait longer to see HP's unfolding enterprise plan for TouchPad.

The Wi-Fi TouchPad, running the webOS firmware created by Palm, goes on sale Friday starting at $500 in stores ranging from Amazon to Walmart, the same outlets that handle its PCs and printers. But the tablet is "enterprise ready," says HP's David Gee, vice president of marketing and enterprise solution for the Palm Global Business Unit. He oversees the marketing strategy for all webOS devices as well as development of webOS-based "solutions" for business customers.

He's got a tough job ahead of him. Analysts are lukewarm about the TouchPad's prospect for success against Apple's iPad 2 and the latest crop of tablets running the Android 3.1 firmware. But the market is still barely a year old, since it was created in 2010 with the release of the first iPad.

BACKGROUND: HP TouchPad goes on sale to mixed reviews

Via webOS 3.0, TouchPad offers what HP calls "essential management and security." HP, like Apple and Google, is relying initially on the features in Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, a push synchronization protocol that links mobile devices with Microsoft Exchange Server and leverages features like password management, remote device wipe and others. The OS also supports a full panoply of Wi-Fi authentication and security standards, and two VPN clients: IPSEC VPN, and Cisco Any Connect VPN. TouchPad leverages HP's wireless printing and ePrint technologies.

With today's launch, MobileIron will offer a native webOS client to its mobile device management application. HP is in talks with all the other leading MDM vendors to do the same thing, Gee says.

But Gee readily admits that these "essential" features are "table stakes" -- the basic necessities to meet a minimum level of security and manageability.

"Since we have one of the world's largest [IT] service organizations and software for IT management and security, for application development quality assurance and security, and experience in how we run data centers, the real opportunity is in asking, 'What lessons can we learn from all this and then build into webOS?'" Gee says. [See HP's Web page for its enterprise software infrastructure offerings.]

He would only talk in generalities, such as the need for centralized management in deploying and supporting thousands of webOS devices, or the value in leveraging software quality assurance capabilities for webOS development. He declined to be specific about upcoming products or their availability, but insisted HP is committed to this course.

"We are dead set on turning those into reality, really fast," he says.

Only Microsoft is in a similar position to integrate a mobile platform, in this case Windows Phone 7, with an extensive, existing corporate IT infrastructure. Neither Apple nor Google, by contrast, have presence in the back end of the corporate network, though some of that is changing as back end services migrate to a mix of public and private clouds. And both rely heavily on Exchange ActiveSync and third-party device management software for security and management features.

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