How HP is putting a lock on the GIS hardware business

By Joe Francica

These days, you cannot see a demo of a wireless or mobile PDA application for GIS without it being demonstrated on an iPAQ.And recently, HP has introduced new, mobile laptops as fast and with as many features as you would find in a robust desktop unit, such as the Compaq Evo Mobile Workstation N800w.Directions reported on both in previous articles.

In June, just after the merger of Compaq and HP, we spoke to Don Brady, formerly with Compaq and now with the newly merged company for his perspectives, which can be read here. For an update on the situation, Directions Magazine spoke with Jim Skog, GIS Business Development manager about the new products as well as his perspective on the current state of the hardware industry as it applies to GIS.Below, we discussed the slowing of the IT spending and whether GIS has been affected by the general industry malaise as well as the adoption of PDA-based GIS applications.

DM: What markets have your targeted within the GIS community?
Skog: Within the GIS community there is sort of a broad "power-user" base, but the ones who will jump on this fastest is the government sector where people are being mobile professionals, command and control applications, and maybe the urban simulation area where they want to be able to do a "fly-through" in a mobile device.

DM: Do you see a trend in corporate environments where they are replacing desktop units with a laptop?
Skog: Anywhere you have a mobile professional; people do not want to have a mobile machine and a desktop machine.They want to put a port on the desk so you can plug into it, and have a LAN connection, and maybe a larger graphics screen.Although this is a pretty sleek graphics screen; we have a 15-inch thin film technology and it has a choice of two levels of high-end graphics.There is definitely a trend to equip a mobile professional, such as engineers in utilities and telcos, to have their whole dataset online with them.

DM: I have been very impressed with demonstrations from Intergraph, ESRI, and MapInfo, and their demonstrations of their PDA-based software.
Skog: I am surprised at how fast ArcPAD has been accepted and how many licenses are out there.The adoption rate and the success of that product have rather surprised me.

DM: A great deal of that is due to Compaq's "smothering" the market with iPAQ's.
Skog: Well I guess we are doing our job right!

DM: How have you seen IT spending in the GIS market? How hard has the GIS market been affected by the IT slowdown?
Skog: GIS usage is so broad that if I look at different segments, Telco excluded since there are not going to spend any money; it has to be pretty painful before the replace anything.Utilities are hunkered down.They are not going to be in any buying mode but they will replace things.In the public sector, I see things really continuing to accelerate.Part of that is homeland defense and part of that is the sophistication of the leading cities in using their GIS tools and how they talk about them....the envy that that creates in other counties and cities that say, "I wish we had that..." so they have to "belly-up" to make that kind of investment to get there.The whole "e-government revolution is, I think, catching on.

DM: How is HP's PDA strategy focused on the location-based services market?
Skog: What I see is that the PDA acceptance has spawned a lot more desire for people to be mobile. GIS is really a mobile industry in the sense that it is about where you are and that you do not always have to be in the office.This box that we have has a really great backplane of I/O devices and I/O connections.

DM: Just because we have seen so many iPAQ's and HP machines, more than what we have seen from other computer vendors such as IBM or Gateway, HP and Compaq seemed to have put a focus on GIS as a market to go after.Now with the merger, does it have a high visibility at the upper levels of HP management?
Skog: I think it does.And it does from both sides, from the HP perspective and from the Compaq perspective. When you put the two together, we are clearly the information technology leader in terms of the hardware side of the solution in the GIS industry. From the iPAQs and the laptops, to the desktops and the servers, we just have a number one position with every software partner.I have counterparts in Europe and Asia Pacific.Then we have people in the workstation product line, from server product line, the printer product line, we all kind of focus together as a virtual team and bring all that messaging together to the point where we probably derive $300 million per year from this segment. It is definitely a large and growing segment.

DM: Can we expect to see bundled packages of iPAQ's with mobile workstations?
Skog: Absolutely, in fact we are running a bundled promotion now with ESRI on homeland security.

Published Wednesday, October 16th, 2002

Written by Joe Francica

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