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GNU is Not Unix

HP Releases E-Speak under GPL 49

Govardhanen Gopal wrote to us with the word from HP that they have released e-speak under the GPL. E-Speak is apparently "...designed to find services and negotiate deals over the Internet." HP is going to try to setup an advisory council and will be using the language internally.
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HP Releases E-Speak under GPL

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  • by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Wednesday November 10, 1999 @04:28AM (#1546064) Homepage Journal
    Thanks HP for choosing an existing licence instead of making up yet another open source licence. I hope you saved some money on lawyers by going that route.

  • So...now I don't have to remember ten thousand different passwords for my favorite e-commerce sites?

    All in all, this seems pretty interesting, though HP's What is e-speak [hp.com] page is nothing but meaningless marketing buzz. I'm still very fuzzy on what this thing actually does though from what I understand it's a standard interface to e-commerce vendors and buyers. That sounds nifty, but whatever happened to mail-order? That still works for me....

  • Didn't Zdnet have an article within the last couple of days asserting that HP's e-services were doing very poorly?

    On one hand, it's great for companies like Netscape, HP and others to open up their code. On the other hand, it seems like open-source is too often seen as a last-ditch strategy for products in trouble. I've already seen numerous articles blaming ópen-source' for Netscape's 'loss' of the browser wars. Does anybody think these last-ditch scenarios will give open source an unjustly negative reputation?

  • What interested me about this [yahoo.com] press release was not so much that they have decided to go Open Source. This is great news, but lots of companies have done this recently.

    Rather, I found it interesting that the reason seems to be that HP has realised that this is the only way to to deal in this business. Only by Open Source can they get their producta accepted widely.

    Way to go, HP! When will you release the rest of your software?

  • Just when it seams ever big company was going to spend a lot of money coming up with a new ass backwards license that will cause every OSS developer to look elsware up pops HP to say.

    "We are too lazy to write a new license and too cheep to pay our lawyers to trash it out with the powers that be".

    It's like this really cool game of leapfrog where everyone is trying to see how much they can get the Linux community to be on his side. HP is edging towards the lead with this.

  • HP wants to make money with this product by, "HP will make money not by selling e-speak directly, but rather by selling gussied-up e-speak software packages such as its "broker-in-a-box." How long would that last? If the software is open source I would imagine that somone would descide to add to it at one point or another, adding the features that HP wants to charge you for. I don't really see how long HP can hope to make money this way. Of cource they may make some, it would take a while for somone to get the source code and descide that they wanted to make additions to the software that makes it more functional in different applications. But how long would this take? Would it ever happen? If this software is truely great it would. And if it is truely great that would only dissapoint HP even more, considering they were the ones that spent the original time, principle, and effort to make the program possible.

    Of course they are talking about having a board similar to the board that governs Apache web server. I don't know that much about how that board works, or if HP could still really control what happens to their software so much so that they could keep certain improvements out of the release because it would compete with their product that they wish to sell and make money off of.

    I have one more thing to say.. This is a great victory for the GPL, now only if all major software companies followed this example. Imagine the software we could create, how powerful it would be. Not that currently their is no great software, but imagine takeing any piece of propritay software and having the entire community working on adding (or somtimes subtracting) features, and getting more and more out of the program. This is the revolution software needs to go into the new millennium, on a whole new level of quality and functionality (not to mention ported to Linux :)
  • by AMK ( 3114 ) on Wednesday November 10, 1999 @04:48AM (#1546071) Homepage
    It seems to be a set of APIs for writing components that either provide a service of some sort, or access some such service. This sort of thing is greatly needed, as shown by all the various efforts that have been springing up - XML-RPC [xmlrpc.com] is one, SOAP another, and E-speak yet another. E-speak seems far more complex than the others -- my head exploded a few times while trying to read the architecture document -- but then it's tackling the problem at a much higher level than the other protocols. Maybe I need to try struggling through the docs again. (You have to register as a developer to get your paws on the programming docs, but it's free.)

    Note that HP has a bunch of RFPs [sourcexchange.com] on Source Exchange that are related to E-speak.

  • HP wants to make money with this product by, "HP will make money not by selling e-speak directly, but rather by selling gussied-up e-speak software packages such as its "broker-in-a-box." How long would that last? If the software is open source I would imagine that somone would descide to add to it at one point or another, adding the features that HP wants to charge you for. I don't really see how long HP can hope to make money this way.

    OK, you wonder how HP's going to make money on this. Take this example: Red Hat. They make a decent amount of money by packaging/augmenting/selling Linux. If HP decides to work e-speak in a similar fashion to Red Hat Linux, then they will get those people who love the idea of the open source community but are unwilling to do the compilation work themselves.

    How well this concept is going to work is fully dependant on HP's stragety on how to work with the open source code and what they're going to release.
  • Use the Source, Luke. (Now that it is available.)

    Slightly more serious: When did a product with "e-" in the name ever actually have to do anything useful or new for the stock price to go up? That seems to be the main point of these e-press e-releases. God knows HP needs all the good PR they can get these days.

    More serious: I think you got the basic idea: interface to e-commerce sites. "What happened to mail-order?" -- where have you been the last few years!? :-)

    An approach based on standard components is (almost) always a good idea, in e-business or elsewhere, as long as the components have widespread acceptance. The GPL of the source should help with this. In e-business, with many new and changing channels (WAP, voice services, your freezer...) we really need an approach that takes us away from HTML based solutions an into a content-rich environment. XML goes some way for the data, e-speak might go some way for the systems and processes.

    Has anybody implemented this, and if so, do they knw what the impact on the biusiness processes are, if any? It seems to me like e-speak locks you down a bit - of course you can always change it but that kind of defeats the purpose.

  • it's possible that open source/free software's reputation could suffer, but if it does, it'll be our own damned fault.

    it won't be possible to save every sinking ship that tosses a line at our tug. if we don't save _any_ of them, that's where the besmirching of our pristine reputation comes in (snort.)

    worrying about the reputation that we have in the business world is wasted, i'm afraid. the companies that think they can use the community (and i suppose i _do_ mean in both senses of the word) will give us a shot...and if we fail to deliver, then they'll ignore us.
  • I "applaud" HP for "releasing" their "software"...
    cnet, on the "other hand" has done a "questionable" job, in my "mind"

    The article almost reads like a transcription of that Simpsons episode:
    Homer: So, if there's a dead-lock we will be se-quest-ered...

    I mean, sheesh... there are only a couple of iterations of the unnecessary-quote-thing going on there, and uh... well, ok, there is one, but it made me think of that scene with Homer, and i felt like posting, so nyah!

    "Cogito ergo es... I think, therefore you is." -The King of the Moon's Head,
  • From the looks of things on the web-page, e-pseak is based on the API's that are being used, and this is how the content is being translated.

    So what exactly is HP releasing? If it is simply the source to the software to deal with e-speak, then we still are dealing with a set of closed API's, correct? Is this what the "Apache-like review board" will be overlooking?

    Just wondering. While this potentially could be a great boost for commercial e-business on Linux, there is still a concern (I believe) with regards to control of the software.
  • How long would that last?

    As long as they keep innovating and produce useful products. How long did Adobe sell Photoshop before the Open Source GIMP [gimp.org] solution came along?

    GPL is not inconsistent with profits, as RMS has pointed out several times. It seems to me that HP is moving in the right direction: release the basic set of components so that everybody can agree at the low level and everybody is free to innovate and implement new solutions on top of the platform. Then bet their business that they are the better innovators, that they understand the customers better than anybody else.

    It might be scary for some managers, but I think that is the way of the future. Organisations will differentiate themselves on how well they understand their cusomers, and on how well they ca build customer loyalty.

    Welcome to the New World (tm).

  • by jd ( 1658 )
    So -that-'s what Frank Bruno was advertising, all those years! :)

    Seriously, though, this is excellent news. Hopefully, HP will experience total success with this project, demonstrating once and for all that the GPL -is- a perfectly viable licence for a commercial company to use.

    I wish HP well with this experiment, and will be taking a look to see if/how I could make use of this program - if only to vote with my feet (& disk space) my support for this move.

    It'll also be great to be able to poke around at the source code, for a change. How long before a MySQL patch is posted, somewhere? (Oracle is cool, but a serious memory hog!)

  • HP is going to release the code to its E-Speak platform under the GPL (the GNU Public License)... this is an interesting case where it was more important for HP to ensure that the platform went forward and was widely adopted than it was for them to try to make some revenue off of licensing it.

    If you haven't seen stuff about E-Speak, it looks pretty cool. If you've ever read anything about Jini, JavaSpaces, or just Tuple Spaces in general, it's along those lines... lots of small components interacting through Broker objects to find each other and make deals, etc... they'll be kind of like automated agents for doing e-commerce.

    HP has a lot invested in the technology and is rolling it out internally, so it's more important to them that the technology take off and lots of people use it than making money off of selling it...
  • Well, bear in mind that it's still very early days in the e-commerce game. A better analogy than the browser wars might be the video wars. At a similar stage in the video tape market development, Beta was clearly ahead, but VHS was much more open (i.e. it was to some degree open and license-able, whereas Beta was purely proprietory). The result was that everyone else chose VHS and it boiled down to Sony versus the world. Guess what, the world won.

    Now, the current battle could shape up similarly. Anyone joining the fray now would probably not try to develop their own standards - too late, *much* too costly, so they would either go HP - open, free, willing to take everyone into account, to some extent - or sign up with one of the leader - proprietory, costly and definitely second fiddle. Which would you choose? A similarly choice faces anyone falling too far behind but not willing to abandon the market. So the endgame should look one or a few front runners versus the whole rest of the world on e-talk. Very interesting, and far from an obvious lose for HP.

    This could validate the GPL in a way (at least to the suits) that the Open/Free software community never could. Even if none of that community gets involved, the directly interested commercial parties should have tremendous development resources to throw at this market.
  • OK.. I was thihnking of this a little differently. I was not really thinking of somthing that is off the shelf. I was thinking somthing that was mainly available on the internet. It is not necessary to compile your source code on EVERYTHING. Their is nothing wrong with getting software that is allready compiled, and if you want the source code so you can do other things with it, you can download that also. I am assuming that this program is not absolutely huge! It is a lot harder for somone to download an OS like say Linux because it's just so big and takes so long, this software should not be that large. My guess would be that at most it would be around 50mb (probably less). That isn't that bad of a download. People can do that in about the same ammount of time that they would spend to go to the store, find what they are looking for, and get back home to install it. Not to mention that would cost money, where as downloading it would cost them.

    But I see your point. Personally bought a distro of Linux. Why? Not becuase it was cheap, not because I NEEDED the manuals, no other reason other than having to download 500 MB was out of the range of my 56K modem ((Note: Getting Cable modem next Tuesday :))

    But I do see your point. And as I said alter on my post, HP will make some money, but I don't think they will make that much. (Expecially since the article says EXACTLY how they intend to make their money. That is the point I was REALLY commenting on. But I can not forget to agree that, yes they may make some money selling somthing that people could download for free.)

  • For what it's worth, I don't really think that HP has hit a gold mine either. Since they have decided to GPL the backbone of e-speak, the vast majority of small-time, enterprising users will be making their own versions of the product, custom tailored for their needs. But, if HP does something exciting with it that is not easily reproducable, then the product will sell.

    I think it's great that HP has gone GNU, but this probably wasn't their best business (read profitability) decision in this case because of what you have said and what I just said.

  • In the article, the HP rep talked about a cell phone that would negotiate with carriers and choose the one offering the cheapest rate at that moment. Phone companies would hate to give consumers that kind of negotiating power, so even if e-speak takes off, don't expect the auto-rate-negotiating phone to arrive any time soon. (Coke machines, on the other hand... :-)

    For business-to-business commerce, it's another matter entirely. I can see Compaq, for example, requiring all its suppliers to use an e-speak-compatible protocol; then, every time Compaq wants to order another thousand motherboards for its factory, its computers can call its supplier's computers and order from whichever supplier quotes the best terms.

    Likewise, if a motherboard manufacturer can use the same e-speak-compatible protocol with Compaq, HP, Gateway, etc., it can have a server that examines the orders sent from various OEMs and decides how much to quote each one. (The manufacturer's director of sales could say, "Those guys at Compaq are such a pain to deal with, I don't want their business unless they offer 10% more than their competitors"; translating that demand into logic on the server would be a Simple Matter of Programming.)

    Furthermore, while Compaq might want to negotiate with its suppliers in this way, they probably don't want to pay licensing fees to HP (their competitor in the Intel-compatible PC market) for the privilege.

    So HP did well for society by making the protocol open-source; we'll see if they can do well for themselves by selling e-speak-related products to other companies. (For an explanation of why the GPL is better for this situation than the BSD, see my comment on the selfish case for the GPL [slashdot.org].)

  • Does e-speak have any concrete advantages over XML-RPC?
  • I've been involved in the HP e-speak Beta program for a month or so now, and have had mixed success. This is definitely BETA software, and not ready for the Big Time. There are a number of issues with things like support for the 1.2JKD, security and generally fuzzy documentation. However, reading the architecture documentation, it seems to have a lot of potential.

    I'm wondering if anyone else has downloaded and/or tried the software yet. I'd like to hear other experiences.

  • You know.. It may not be the BEST business descision for them.. But is is definately good the "The Community". By "The Community" I am talking about us, Slashdot readers, linux users, and GNU fans everywhere. What this means is that the views are our little community are being herd. And that we are makeing a large impact on the industry. Just think, companies are now going a route that may cause them not to make as much money, just to embrace our community and our ideas. They are telling us that what we stand for is working, and is, if not the wave of the future, somthing at least worthy of trying out. This is a Good Thing(tm). Hopefully HP is happy with the results and descides to do this very same thing with other pieces of software, and then it spreads to other software companies.

    Just imagine.. Every company offering it's software under the GPL, except for say Micro$oft. Who refuses to go with the flow. This could mean the end of Micro$oft. Or at least it would make microsoft have to step up it's quality, not just a little, A LOT! More than I think is possible, but then who am I to say anything.

    You are in it for one of two things.. You have to descide which is more important:
    1. Profit
    2. Takeing down Micro$oft
    I don't know about you, but I choose GPL.
    ((I just thaught of that.. Go figure.))
  • e"speak isn't open source because HP want collaborative development (in the Mozilla sense), but because of the type of product that it is. e"speak is a protocol, and protocols are only useful if they're adopted by clients. To make it succeed, HP needs to have e"speak adopted by many producers of user agents, browsers and server components and the easiest way to do that is to make the developer's life easy.

    It's also no secret that HP has taken a battering from industry analysts lately, and that they publish their quarterly results imminently. e"speak is a deserving product, but the timing is influenced by spin management. I don't speak for HP, BTW.

  • It seems to be a set of APIs

    E-speak defines APIs as if they're local procedure calls within the same process (just like our grandparents used to code). There is a wire protocol underlying all that, but you're distanced from it. This is in contrast to XML-RPC / SOAP, where the wire protocol is a defined presentation layer running over a pre-existing session layer (http).

    Of course, as it's now Open Source, you can write whatever you need, if you want to, right down to the wire.

    This sort of thing is greatly needed,

    Indeed. the question is, which one gets taken up by the market. Maybe that just means "Which one does big-cheap-warehouse.com first start offering a price broker service for".

    XML-RPC is one, SOAP another, and E-speak yet another.

    In a sense, E-speak is (arguably) closer to Corba than to XML-RPC, as it has the same brokering function.

    E-speak does something that XML-RPC doesn't. XML-RPC requires clients to communicate with a pre-defined server, from which they have already obtained the metadata that defines their messaging formats. You can't ask an XML-RPC best-price shopping agent to find a new toaster for you, unless you both share a vocabulary that states whether "toaster" is a "product name" or a "product category". If this was easy, then we'd have done it 10 years ago with EDI.

    The great advantage of not needing to define the metadata before talking to the shopping agent isn't that it avoids the need to register, but that it means a client that can talk to one about shopping can also talk to any about shopping.

    Yes, XML inherently allows self-describing structures based on an extensible syntax that doesn't need metadata to be syntactically validated. They're all good things, but they're still not enough to make it happen.

    BizTalk [biztalk.org] is a little like E-speak, but it brokers the metadata through the wetware at design time, rather than doing it quite so dynamically. Easier to do, but not so flexible in practice.

    Information and Content Exchange (ICE [gca.org]) protocol is another contrast. This is a medium-weight protocol that provides a range of resource discovery and trading functions, but gets it to work by restricting the domain of usefulness to that of content syndication (newspapers, weblogs and the like).

    I don't speak for HP, and certainly not on E-speak

  • by AMK ( 3114 )
    I don't know. It's far more complicated, but it also does a lot more, and has different design criteria. XML-RPC is just that, remote procedure calls. Finding the right XML-RPC server, determining what methods it supports, and similar resource discovery are all outside of XML-RPC's province; you'd have to invent your own techniques on top of it. E-speak provides a lot more, but this exacts a cost in increased complexity. We'll see how it turns out.
  • If e-speak can grow the internet business market... that means more servers and clients as well, right? And more support...

    And HP also happens to sell desktops, workstations, servers, and massive servers all along the chain of devices.

    That's one opportunity if e-speak takes off; HP can not only sell you the solution, they can sell you the hardware to run the solution the most effectively!

  • Don't know about e-speak itself, but it's a bear trying to get it up on an HPUX system.

    It's so much nicer on a Linux system (hint-hint. Any HPUX people reading?)

    Installing GNU tools, Perl, Python, LDAP, SSL, Apache, etc. Of course these prolly aren't necessary for deployment, but they are for development.

    What have you tried to do with e-speak? I thought it was still too beta to do much-maybe I'm wrong?

  • mainly griping because I'm installing and dealing with espeak on an HPUX system right now...

    Mayhaps I should be posting Anonymously or something...

  • Here is a link [excite.com] to a press release announcing: "Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard and Telia will co-operate in a joint pilot project to run WAP-based Mobile Internet e-services on HP's e-speak electronic services platform." The press release goes on to add lots of other marketing buzz-words as one might expect, but does show that e-speak is actually being used somewhere.

    (Disclaimer: I work for Ericsson, but my views are my own and this post does not represent Ericsson in any way.)

  • whee...

    Just wanted to mention that I worked on E-speak...
    if it flakes horribly and doesn't scale for crap,
    blame me =).

    Keep in mind that, even though I worked on the goofy thing, I still don't know what it _does_. Even a bunch of the other engineers I worked with gave me blank stares and referred me to the marketing BS. The bits I was actually coding were just communication protocols that were generic enough that it told me nothing about the rest of the product. Ah well... I look forward to seeing wtf E-speak actually does.
  • I used to think HPUX sucked as well, but I actually kinda like it now. Been usin' it for about a year. Once you "gnu'ify" it. ;-)


  • This looks like more good vibes from HP.

    Remember when they asked O'Reilly to handle SourceExchange for them? Their reasoning was that they didn't want their competitors to feel wary of participating and benefitting from it.

    Their intentions appear to be quite noble. It's as if they're pulling for the industry as a whole.

    Methinks it's time for Slashdot to do an interview with the person(s) at HP responsible for these great actions. I really want to know how they got around the bullshit you'll get at a more typical company when suggesting these things.
  • The money will come from "selling gussied-up e-speak software packages" and providing consulting services to configure and tune the package.

    The software will be transitioning from a product based model to a integrator based model. GPL or give away the platform. Charge money for the work done to integrate the parts together. Eventually putting together an ecommerce system will be like playing with legos.

  • I have a cable modem, and it's great for downloads and on-line games. However, I don't typically use it to download CD images for stuff like Linux or OpenBSD.

    Why? The same reason I send money to NPR. They do stuff, and I use it, and I appreciate it. I support them. Often it's the best possible use of my money.

    If I like HP's E-Speak, it'll be the same situation. I'll pay a little extra for the "official" distribution. I'd be willing to pay extra for support from them if I needed it.

    And if I need some extensive customization of E-Speak, who's the first company I'm going to call? HP of course. If they build up a good reputation with me (and anyone releasing OSS gets a big bonus), I am highly likely to be a customer of theirs in the future.

    Having industries based on OSS is the best possible world for me at least. I can just run the stuff myself if I understand it sufficiently. If I have more money that time, I can pay someone else to do so. Maximum choice. I like it.

  • Well, for what it is worth, we've been planning to open source the product since the project started.

    The reason for that isn't to save a dying product, or even to leverage free development. It is simply that for this bird to fly it has to be set free; one company trying to own and control the marketplace leads to division. To create a universal marketplace we must be willing to give up control and compete after the fact instead of before.

    Fundamentally this is the same argument that Tim Berners-Lee makes about releasing the source to the original web daemon unencumbered:

    We are already asking people to put their most valuable asset (their business) online using our product; asking anything more is too much.


  • At the moment, I'm still trying to get their "echo" example working in a distributed environment (i.e., where the client and server are on different actual machines, communicating over a local network). Overall, the documentation is fairly good, but it leaves some critical details out (or stuffs them in some obscure place where I haven't been able to find them), and sometimes it's just plain wrong.

    One thing I'd like to see is a list of requirements under Linux. It wasn't until after working with it for a week that I suddenly realzed that I had confugured IP Multicast out of the kernel that I was running. I'm sure that didn't help!

  • slashdots code is available..ftp to its site and d/l it.

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