'Big' WLAN announcement coming soon, says HP exec

Hewlett-Packard Co. will shortly make a significant move around its wireless LAN products, an executive has promised Canadians reporters.

"You should be expecting some pretty big announcements where we're going to establish ourselves as a market leader in this area very shortly," Marius Haas, senior vice-president and general manager of HP's Networking division, said in a conference call Friday.

"Some of the things we'll be announcing around some of our wireless technology is going to put HP in a leadership position," he said.

He wouldn't offer any details, including whether it would be a new product or an acquisition. HP expanded into wireless networking with its 2008 purchase of Colubris Networks.

But he did say that "there's a lot more news to come this year."

The statement came in the middle of a session in which Haas boasted about his division's performance, saying revenue was up 50 per cent over 2009, if last year's US$2.7 billion acquisition of enterprise networking equipment maker 3Com Corp. wasn't included. The margin was bigger if 3Com numbers are included.

Comparing HP Networking to perennial market leader Cisco Systems Inc., Haas said his division has made significant gains. Haas tossed out 2009 as an "anomaly" [because of the recession] to compare sales over the two-year period of 2008 and 2010 and said HP gained 2.2 per cent market share over Cisco.

During those two years HP gained 3.8 per cent in wireless LAN market share, almost one per cent on enterprise routers lept 32 per in market share for switching equipment.

Before the 3Com acquisition, the networking products -- many of which used the ProCurve brand, which is being retired -- were selling extremely well, he said. With the addition of 3Com and its Tipping Point intrusion detection appliances, sales growth is up "exponentially."

He dismissed Cisco's "Borderless Architecture" strategy as marketing playing catch-up to HP's intelligent edge architecture and denied Cisco is gaining sales with what he called "market-techure."

Haas also shrugged off what he said was Cisco's bid to create a lot of buzz around the refreshing of a Catalyst 8-port switch. "No real new news," Haas declared. "I'm not going to send out a press release over an upgrade of an 8-port switch. They're clearly struggling, and when you look at their [market] share loss, they're going to have to address it."

HP's value proposition is "second to none," he said. Still, he admitted HP does have to do a better job of marketing its products.

Hewlett-Packard has been aggressively going after Cisco in the past two years, including a promotion that started in December offering organizations a 20 per cent discount on HP A- and E-series switches for trading in certain models of Cisco Catalyst switches. That offer will continue for the rest of this year, Haas said.

In all, during the conference Haas stoutly defended HP's strategies.

Told that an industry analyst believes the company is behind schedule on integrating 3Com's China-based H3C network equipment division, Haas sloughed it off. "If we're behind anything it's communicating to the world all the technology we have."

He also pushed aside an analyst's complaint that the networking division has a number of overlapping lines. "In any acquisition there's going to be some overlap," Haas said. But, he pointed out, when HP issued a consolidated product roadmap for the added 3Com/Tipping Point/H3C products, no gear or software was chopped.

As for 2011, other than the promised WLAN announcement, Haas said his division's goals are to help organizations accelerate the use of virtualization, enhance network performance and simplify their network architectures.

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