Getting Jig-E With IT

Maybe it was the universal appeal of sand, surf and sun. Maybe it was the gleaming,white beaches and blue-green waters of South Beach, Florida. Or perhaps the Cuban-inspiredfood. I'm not entirely sure. But I do know Carly Fiorina, HP's new CEO was there. As wasAnn Livermore and Bill Russell. So, with 75% of HP's 21st century brain trust in fullattendance, you can be sure that E-Services World in Miami Beach was more than your usualvendor-run-at-the-mouth event.

Also on hand were 700 or so of HP's best IT customers and invited computer and businesstrade press reporters. And yes, there was some vendor hype here and there from the showsponsors: A.T. Kearney, BEA, Lucent Technologies, Oracle and Qwest. But hey, what's alittle hyperbolic bantering between friends when you're trying to change the world?

Waxing philosophic was Ms. Fiorina in her opening keynote address: Quoting Socrates,she said, "We cannot live better than in seeking to become better." Ms.Livermore, on the other hand, gave a repeat performance of her HP World presentation,complete with the funky E-services video. If you attended her keynote at HP World, thenyou know what I'm talking about. If not, you're missing something unusual from HP: aclassic piece of hip-hop infotainment with quick cuts and unusual camera angles and lotsof close-ups of HPers and users talking about "the next e." It's good. And it'scertainly a leap beyond the typical HP marketing fare.

The implicit theme for the two-day event: better living through E-services. Thatsubject was brought home to the audience listening to MIT's Michael Dertouzos, Director ofMIT Laboratory for Computing Science. All attendees were given a copy of his 1997 book:What Will be: How the New World Of Information Will Change Our Lives. Here's an excerpt:"The Information Marketplace will make us ... half, urban sophisticate, roaming thevirtual globe and half, villager, spending more time at home and tending to family,friends and the routines of neighborhood."

Unfortunately, I missed Dertouzos' talk because I was interviewing A.T. Kearney's DougAldrich (and you thought I was on the beach). Friendly, thoughtful and polite, Aldrich isa visionary in his own right (and new book author). You could describe him as a big manwith big ideas. Manufacturing-centric business thinking, Aldrich explained, is dead."The end customer, in many cases the consumer [not the manufacturer], decides whogets to play [in the channel]. Lot sizes of one are becoming an issue. That's neverhappened before."

Digital value-add, according to Aldrich, inherent in HP's E-services vision, is thekey. "Digital value add can change the experience and nature of time." He citesMobil's Speed Pass as an example. After doing his own time-motion study on self-service ata gas pump, Aldrich determined that it takes about 20 seconds to open your wallet, fusswith your credit card, etc. "With the Speed Pass, everything's been pre-selected. Allyou have to do is pump. Mobil's had a huge increase in repeat business. The impression isthe consumer will do what it takes to buy time."

Last, but certainly not least, Bill Russell brought out some of the "toys"that have been cooked up in the HP Labs during the past several months. These"info-appliances" of the E-services world will be based on Chai, HP's embeddedversion of Java.

I end my whirlwind tour of HP's E-services World -- strangely enough -- at thebeginning. Buzz Aldrin was the featured opening day keynote speaker. Mr. Aldrin, althoughpromoting his own "Space Tourism" concept and the company that would build therockets for such a venture, provided, nevertheless, an interesting counterpoint aboutrisk. "It's a risk-adverse society we live in," he casually mentioned, whiletalking about his life as test pilot and eventually an astronaut who would walk on themoon behind Neil Armstrong. But, it's all about risk and rewards. The E-services strategyis certainly a risk for HP. And maybe for your business too. But think of the rewards. Doyou want to reach for the moon? It could be worth the risk.