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1/31/2011
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Global CIO: HP Calls Out Apple In CEO's Quest To Be Coolest Of All

New CEO Leo Apotheker finally talks about HP's future but says nothing about the enterprise. Instead, he says HP will out-cool Apple. Word up.

Talking to the BBC following the World Economic Forum, Mr Apotheker reflected on what he thinks the company needs to do to transform its image from a boring printer and PC manufacturer to one that can wow a generation raised on Apple's iDevices.

"What's happening is probably the biggest revolution in the history of IT," he told the Beeb. "The internet is going totally mobile, the bandwidth is there...so many technologies are converging, and HP is the one company that can put it all together. We want to be the leader in this."

"I hope one day people will say 'this is as cool as HP'," he added, "not 'as cool as Apple' ". (End of excerpt.)

I've always loved the ambition embodied in Robert Browning's line, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" But the problem with this blatant grasp-exceeding gambit by Apotheker is that it's the very first substantive point he's made publicly about the direction in which he wants to take the company.

What about HP's Converged Infrastructure strategy? Not a peep.

Or HP's booming networking business? Silence.

How about IBM's contention that HP's lost its way in enterprise systems due to sustained lack of investment? Not a word.

Or Larry Ellison's repeated and very public contentions that at the increasingly important high end of the systems market, HP's offerings are slow, expensive, and brittle, and that Oracle's going to go aggressively after HP's customers? Nothing.

(For extensive analysis of those challenges from IBM and Oracle as well as other related perspectives, be sure to check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)

For six months, HP's terrific people, in the absence of CEO-level articulation of who the company is and where it is going, have done a standup job of delivering strong financial results and continuing to represent the company proudly and effectively.

But after two months with no CEO and four months of almost total silence from Apotheker, I would think HP's 300,000 employees and its similar number of business customers around the world want to hear at least a broad sense of Apotheker's vision for the company's enterprise business on questions like these:

**With the HP-Oracle alliance falling apart, what is HP doing to fill the gaps left by the soon-to-be-gone Oracle software?

**What's HP's short-term cloud strategy and its long-term cloud strategy?

**What's HP's enterprise mobility strategy?

**Apotheker told the BBC that he feels HP stock is undervalued. Why does he think that?

**Growth rates for PCs, where HP is massively invested, are under attack from smartphones and tablets, where HP has next to no presence. What does Apotheker plan to do about making HP a viable player in enterprise mobility?

Well. Apotheker might not like those questions, and he might not like the fact that his business customers and prospects and partners are all wondering about what the future holds in those and other critical areas, but he has chosen during his four-month tenure as CEO to say nothing about any of those topics.

And now that he has made some public comments, what's the subject? His desire to out-cool Apple.

The business world does not have a clear sense of HP's intentions, and has not had one for the past few months. In the meantime, every competitor from IBM to Oracle to Dell to Cisco to EMC and others has been using that uncertainty, that vacuum, to hammer away at HP's enterprise customer base.

But now, HP's sales team can tell all those CIOs not to worry about all their questions about HP's plan for the cloud and virtualization and data-center and mobility stuff—after all, the HP salespeople can tell those CIOs that in several years, HP's gonna be cooler than Apple.

Hey—the boss says so.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Global CIO: Larry Ellison Vows To 'Go After' HP; Is Alliance Dead?

Global CIO: IBM Zings Oracle And HP Over Limited Vision

Global CIO: Silicon Valley Crackup: Oracle & HP Killing 25-Year Alliance?

Global CIO: HP's New Strategy Will Intensify Battles With IBM And Oracle

Global CIO: The Top 10 CIO Issues For 2011

Global CIO: Are HP And SAP Perfect Match Or Train Wreck?

Global CIO: Gunning For IBM And Oracle, HP Plans Optimized-Systems Blitz

Global CIO: The PC Is Dying: Long Live The iPad!

Global CIO: Larry Ellison And IBM Lead Surge In Optimized Systems

Global CIO: An Open Letter To IBM CEO Sam Palmisano

Global CIO: Apple Storms The Enterprise As iPad And iPhone Surge

Global CIO: Steve Jobs Declares War On Google

Global CIO: Apple, IBM, Or Microsoft: Who Has #1 Most-Valuable Software Product?

Global CIO: The Rise Of Analytics Triggers The Fall Of The Tactical CIO

Global CIO: IBM Leads IT Industry With Surge In Analytics And Hardware

Global CIO: Larry Ellison's 10-Point Plan For World Domination

Global CIO: SAP's Striking Turnaround Triggered By Customer-Centric Strategy

Global CIO: Top 10 Tech Stories Of The Year: The Complete List

Global CIO: HP CEO Leo Apotheker's Agenda: What Will He Do First?

Global CIO: The Top 10 Most-Influential IT Vendors

Global CIO: Larry Ellison Swaps Cloud Rants For Cloud Love With Exalogic

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at bevans@techweb.com.

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