HP’s Apotheker Reveals Roadmap Milestones Up Ahead

HP CEO says webOS is a legitimate alternative to Windows because it can run all devices across the spectrum

Hewlett-Packard’s new chief executive, Léo Apotheker, has given more details about how and where he will be leading the world’s largest IT company in the future.

Apotheker, who joined the company as CEO last November, replacing the deposed Mark Hurd, did not have to travel too far for his appearance at Tony Perkins’ AlwaysOn OnDemand 2011 conference – it was held downstairs from his office at HP’s world headquarters.

On March 14, Apotheker made his onstage debut in front of the media and analysts at a special event in San Francisco, sketching out, in general terms, how he expects HP to continue to lead the world’s IT companies with new cloud computing products, mobile devices, and enterprise services.

“Cool” HP Examining New Form Factors

Apotheker (left) and Perkins

He has famously said that HP wants to be known as a “cool” company like Apple, making fun-to-use, high-performing consumer devices.

“If you go back in history, Apple was the cool company with the first PC, the Apple II,” Apotheker said. “Client-server was the new wave of computing in the 1980s, and it changed all that we knew about computing at that time. Things are changing again in IT.”

Apotheker moved on to explain that the big change today is the rise of tablets in a PC-dominated world: “I don’t want to make any silly comparisons but I happen to believe that form factor we now have called TouchPad or tablet or whatever, and the form factor we call PC or notebooks, have come together, which gives us a huge opportunity.

“We happen to have the greatest operating system currently available in webOS. It’s an absolutely outstanding operating system. Our TouchPad (tablet) will be coming out in June, and then everybody will see firsthand how good it is,” he said. “We want to use the webOS to bring everything together. We will be putting our webOS on every PC we ship in the next year, as well as on our printers. We see it as a legitimate alternative because it runs devices across the spectrum – PCs, tablets, smartphones, printers, everything – and runs them well.”

This immediately becomes a big advantage for software developers, Apotheker said, because they can develop applications for any HP device using the same webOS toolkit and platform. He added that he believes developing for the webOS is a straightforward proposition.

“You know the game Angry Birds?” he asked the SRO audience of C-level executives and venture capitalists. “Well, their developers ported it to webOS in two days. Two days! Other apps can take two weeks or two months.”

HP Changing Its Partnering Tune?

HP has never been known to be a company that partners very often with young or startup companies, preferring to work closely with established partners. Apotheker said the company will be changing this approach as it moves deeper into providing cloud computing services and infrastructure.

“We can’t do all of this by ourselves,” Apotheker said. “HP wants to have a dialogue with everyone in this room. We will continue to do three things: develop on our own, partner with other good companies, and buy good companies.”

One company HP does not intend to acquire, however, is Apotheker’s former employer, German enterprise software maker SAP.

“I don’t think that is such a good idea,” he told Perkins, who guided the one-on-one conversation onstage in the jam-packed room. “I would much rather have a strong partnership with them, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Apotheker said that HP will be focusing more of its resources on producing new products and services to handle so-called Big Data – petabyte-level enterprise data processing and storage workloads requiring data analytics software and tools.

“We’ll be going into that big time,” he said, in a direct reference to its biggest competitor, IBM, which has been the global leader in that department for years.

Apotheker said that HP will be rolling out a new platform-as-a-service business for cloud system building, it is planning to open a new applications store during the next year, and it intends to continue doing business as usual with Microsoft – even with the soon-to-be ubiquitous presence of webOS.

HP and Microsoft have partnered for decades in providing Windows-based desktops, laptops, servers and other mobile devices for both consumer and enterprise customers. But Apotheker is keenly aware of the notion that innovation does not always come from the companies with the largest head counts.

“Big doesn’t always move the needle. Smart moves the needle,” Apotheker said.