HP Discover: Three CEOs Call For Tax, Surveillance Reforms

The three CEOs of HP, Intel and Microsoft called for a change in surveillance policy, easier immigration and tax breaks for research, in a conference session described as the “Yalta of tech”.

The meeting of HP’s Meg Whitman, Intel’s Brian Krzanich and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella was less momentous than the conference which ended World War Two – and Nadella was only there by video link. The trio mostly agreed on politics and promised exciting new tech, in a keynote at HP Discover in Las Vegas, where compere Thomas Friedman, author of The Earth is Flat, jokingly made the Yalta comparison.

Renewing their vows

The three are long term partners of course – and partners is a major theme of a conference where Whitman is keen to show a strong and trustworthy HP.

“Thirty year marriages need rejuvenation,” said Whitman, promising the three would re-bond and “renew our vows”.

Friedman pitched some easy questions about the Internet of things but the group got going when he moved to politics. Asked where Government could help most, they came up with three issues.

All of them want more liberal H-1B visas which allow foreign nationals to work in the US. There are a limited number of these available, said Whitman and “they sell out like tickets for a Madonna concert.”  To help provide the tech skills all companies need, she said the Government should have more enlightened immigration and education policies.

The irony of a plea for immigration coming from a CEO currently laying off staff was not missed – but Whitman and the others would say they need tech people and are shedding bureaucrats.

Krzanich called for tax reforms – arguing that companies are making long term investments which will pay off for the US economy: “You can’t make these investments without tax credits”. Research and development should be given a tax break, he said.

Nadella repeated Microsoft’s call for a reform of surveillance, redefining the problem as an opportunity, where a more open America could lead the world. “The government needs to regain the trust of its citizens,” he said. “We should open up to the world and make it a global discussion.”

Microsoft also needs to regain trust, Friedman suggested, asking Nadella if Microsoft could look its customers in the eye. “The problem is being worked on, but it is not solved,” Nadella responded.

What’s in store?

Asked about future developments, Nadella wants to see more personal technologies, but warned that this needs a privacy model where users are in control. “We need a different way to think about privacy or we won’t have friction-free adoption.”

Krzanich likes 3D technologies, and recently had his body scanned and printed in the office.

Whitman, meanwhile, wants more efficient use of space and power to ensure that this can all work – and be available to enough people – within the resources of the planet. The pressure to provide a middle class lifestyle was becoming extreme, she said. “If we don’t do something soon, there could be something quite catastrophic.”

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Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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