Hewlett-Packard Hong Kong has formed an alliance with 19 locally based independent software vendors to assist development of mobile wireless solutions over its iPaq personal digital assistant (PDA). Alliance members will be offered hardware prototypes and demonstration units at discounted prices for testing and research, and have premier access to beta products and support from HP's technical teams. The vendors, once they launch new iPaq-based solutions, can join marketing events with HP. As well, they can use HP's distributors and retailers in Hong Kong as sales channels. For example, companies might receive prototypes of the new generation of the Pocket PC before they are introduced on the market. They would then receive technical and marketing support from HP and co-launch the products at the same time. Most of the alliance firms have developed iPaq-based solutions in areas of geographical information systems, field support, insurance and finance services, mobile applications and retailing. Alvin Cheung, HP's manager for small and medium-sized businesses and the alliance programme, said: 'Since our merger [with Compaq] in May, there has been no announcement in this direction. We want to use this opportunity to reinforce our direction and show we are backed up by many local solution developers.' The company hoped it could increase sales of its Pocket PC-based device. 'We do not want iPaq just to be seen as a device solely for synchronising to one's calendar or phone book,' said Mr Cheung. 'We hope it will also bring in various kinds of commercial opportunity - that's why we are different from [Palm-based] PDAs.' He said the programme would target firms providing solutions for government, utilities and education, as well as finance, securities and insurance. 'But other companies are welcome to join at no charge.' Alliance member ESRI is a leading vendor of geographical information systems and mapping software for Hong Kong and Macau. One of its products, ArcPad, integrates with the global positioning system for navigation and data capture, and enables editing of map data in the field. Sales and marketing director Paul Tsui said iPaq-based solutions were the most popular among all Pocket PC software. 'Despite the fact that we have solutions available for other Pocket PCs, over 90 per cent of our customers are running it over the iPaq,' he said. Alliance firms include ABC QuickSilver, Asiawireless Pacific, AT Group, CiF Solutions, Connex Technology, CyberM Information Technology, E&S Land Data Management, ESRI Hong Kong, Flexsystem, InfoTalk, Interactife, Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions, MC. Founder (Technology), MTel, North 22 Solutions, Sinosky Technology Development, Sweda International, Sybase and Wincor Nixdorf.