Hewlett-Packard (HP), ignoring the economic slowdown, is to launch more than 50 new or improved products over the next few weeks. Company officials yesterday said this was HP's largest software product launch, as the firm seeks to become a leading player in the software market. The officials declined to comment on how this move would help to strengthen HP's proposed US$25 billion acquisition of Compaq Computer but analysts said that a new and bigger HP had to have a new and bigger software strategy. At its annual Software Universe and Symposium, which concludes tomorrow, HP unveiled new and improved products under its OpenView suite for systems and network management as well as for its NetAction server middleware suite for e-services. The HP OpenView product suite provides management for e-services that include applications, services, hardware and storage. It was the NetAction suite which enabled the development, integration and deployment of those services. 'The new offerings enhance the abilities of customers to manage diverse voice and data infrastructure environments and provide platforms for the development, integration and deployment of new revenue-generating voice and data services,' said Bill Russell, HP vice-president and general manager of its software solutions organisation. HP claimed to be the first company to make development and deployment of Web services pervasive across all computing platforms by offering its application server free. Mr Russell said this would change the competitive landscape in the market for Web application server technologies, in which IBM and BEA Systems are the leading vendors. Application server software is used by software developers to establish platforms - spanning mainframe, client-server and Web-based computing environments - on which applications run. The application server has replaced the operating system as the development platform of choice for the Internet. Although technology sales worldwide continue to be sluggish, Mr Russell said HP's execution on its software strategy had put the company on track to finally becoming a force to be reckoned with in the infrastructure software market. In February, HP said it would revamp its software offerings to position its products for enterprises and service providers who were moving into a 'service-centric' computing environment in which information technology functions and capabilities would be deployed and paid for as metered services. According to Gartner Group, the introduction of the NetAction middleware to anchor a new suite of e-business applications and the continuation of its flagship software product OpenView for system management 'gives HP a foundation on which to build a coherent message about its future as a software player'. HP, which posted US$48.8 billion in revenues in its latest financial year, said it generated about US$2 billion in annual software sales, mainly from its OpenView product line. OpenView competes in the network and system management software market segment with products from IBM's Tivoli Software unit, BMC Software, Computer Associates, Concord Communications and Micromuse. One of the new additions to the HP OpenView suite for integrated services management is the OpenView Integrated Service Assurance product. It is supposed to help streamline problem diagnosis and service-level management of complex Internet protocol, wireline and wireless infrastructure - specifically addressing the management needs of hosting and communication service providers and enterprises. HP also announced new and enhanced OpenView storage management products to help maximise the efficiency of storage resources and improve information availability. HP also will release more than 20 application modules to its existing OpenView products. There are about 13 new NetAction products set for release from the middle of this month, such as the new OpenWave products. These NetAction products and enhancements include a Linux version of the Opencall SS7 software developer kit as well as HP's Internet Operating Environment (IOE) products that expedite rapid development of composite Web services, complex business transactions and mobile solutions. Among the full roster of new HP NetAction IOE products introduced is the NetAction Application Server 8.0, available as a free download from www.hp.com . With its landmark move to open up the Web application server market, HP is now in discussions with BEA Systems to complete a global strategic alliance for enterprise e-business software solutions. Mr Russell said the discussions included potential co-marketing and sales initiatives around BEA WebLogic software offerings and HP OpenView management solutions. All the newly announced HP software products can be integrated and supported easily with the company's new Utility Data Centre solution - a package consisting of software as well as consulting and support services.