The First Major Web Service Alliance: Microsoft and HP

Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Microsoft announced in September a global initiative to align and focus enterprise technologies, sales, and services to provide integrated, end-to-end Microsoft .NET and Web service solutions to enterprise customers. According to the plan, Microsoft and HP will train more than 5000 HP salespeople on .NET functionality and capabilities, will certify 3000 HP Professional Services people on .NET technologies, and will form a new group of HP .NET solution architects.

The partnership represents a total investment of more than $50 million by the two companies, creating one of the world's largest, most specialized forces of .NET consultants and systems architects. One question remains: Is this partnership the first step toward the ultimate goal of competing with a very powerful and successful IBM Global Services organization? In my opinion, this is just a small step if the answer to that question is yes. Mike Sinneck, corporate vice president of worldwide services at Microsoft and former IBM Global Services leader, has quite a task at hand to focus a Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) organization.

According to Sinneck, "This initiative integrates the strengths of both companies—thought, leadership, innovation, comprehensive software and hardware platforms, and end-to-end services—to bring customers unprecedented value from their existing technology investments. We are extremely pleased to work with HP and usher in the new generation of computing based on .NET."

Microsoft and HP also announced the first collaborative high-visibility Web services project. With initial phases of the application already completed before the partnership announcement, General Mills has engaged the two companies to build handheld solutions that will communicate retail direction and monitor progress against retail objectives. General Mills operates 91 manufacturing plants worldwide, 66 of them in North America. General Mills will empower its retail representatives with the Microsoft- and HP-developed handheld solution.

The data that retail manufacturers collect is automatically synchronized with General Mills' reporting infrastructure to help aggregate product positioning in the stores and provide efficient recording of this vital retail information. In the past, General Mills' retailers collected data through paper forms for more than 25,000 stores. General Mills couldn't analyze the data fast enough, and aggregating the entire data set was virtually impossible, which made making decisions based on the analysis of retail store conditions difficult.

To help General Mills' staff, HP helped create a new handheld system to streamline data collection, daily communications, and analysis. The initiative consists of HP and Microsoft using .NET and advising on a Web services framework to develop a mobile application that gives General Mills' salespeople accurate realtime data and the ability to respond rapidly.

"General Mills generally develops non-ERP solutions internally," said Sue Simonett, director of information systems at General Mills. "This focused retail excellence initiative is highly visible within General Mills because retail store conditions directly impact our overall business performance. This new infrastructure will initially be utilized for the rollout of our new grocery items coming to market. After reviewing HP's and Microsoft's .NET capabilities, we realized that it just made good business sense to turn to their teams of experts."

Although the complete technical details of the solution haven't been announced, you can assume the handheld devices will be Pocket PCs running Windows CE and that Microsoft and HP will develop a suite of applications built on the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, which communicates to Web services on the back end. As new handheld Pocket PC devices continue to come to market with better features, partnerships with Microsoft such as the one with HP will help build the next wave of mobility applications.

To read more about the announcement, visit

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