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Hewlett Packard is turning on the pressure on BEA Systems, the leading app-server vendor, by offering its own app-server for free.

HP is making the move to pique interest in its web services stack, which earns the company money, HP's Andre Pino told InfoWorld.

Sun is mulling similar moves, and after software chief Pat Sueltz let slip that Sun would bundle its own iPlanet app server with Solaris for next year, conspicuously failed to deny that the app server would be bundled for free.

It is questionable how much difference the app-server price tag actually makes. Typically, the app-server forms part of a bigger, strategic purchasing choice, and BEA's leadership today owes as much to the spurs the company earned - long before the app-server category was born - with its CORBA middleware.

HP, Sun and IBM can all grab headlines with changes to app-servers list prices without significantly affecting their software revenues.

HP made a smart move last year in purchasing middleware leader Bluestone, prompted partly by frustration with the lack of traction it had obtained with its visionary E-Speak web services architecture. (It's worth remembering that despite the noisy claims to be open, E-Speak has the most open license of all).

Despite the traditional difficulties HP seems to have in swallowing its acquisitions, that deal looks even better today. ®

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