Hewlett Packard (HP) yesterday confirmed the rumours surrounding its middleware products with the announcement that many of its products are to be canned.
The firm is preparing to abolish the majority of its NetAction products in favour of, it says, an independent platform.
This means that the NetAction Application Server, NetAction Web Services Platform and the Web Services Registry will all be replaced by products from third parties.
It is a terrible blow for the people HP acquired alongisde these products when it bought BlueStone Software little over a year ago.
But nobody knows what is happening to these roles yet. Will the people be consigned to the employee recycle bin or reassigned in HP? We do not even know if HP plans to sell off the assets from these products.
The problem with HP's middleware products was not so much that they were no good, because they undoubtedly were, but rather that they came into an incredibly crowded, competitive market rather late in the game.
That meant sales were probably at the bad end of poor and therefore maintaining such a unit makes little sense for the firm.
That is the assumption anyway. It could also be argued that HP simply got it wrong altogether.
The idea of HP trying to become an infrastructure company of this sort was always going to be tough, going up against competitors that it relied upon. That is perhaps why it is switching back to its agnostic stance.
Agnostic of course is a slightly controversial term given that the likely partners will include Microsoft. BEA will probably form the backbone of any middleware strategy though, giving HP the opportunity to sit in the middle of the ongoing - and frankly rather tedious - battle between Java and Microsoft's .Net.
Profitability in the software game is a very difficult thing to achieve nowadays. That is what HP will say when asked to explain why these products have been so unceremoniously dumped.
The strange thing though is that middleware products come with an important twist for companies with aspirations like HP. They give high margins and consulting work which, unless we have misunderstood, is something that HP was keen to tap into. Perhaps it knows something we do not.
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