After six months of waiting, HP's new CEO Leo Apotheker finally revealed his strategic plans, leaving this writer wondering: Where's the beef?
After months of anticipation and buildup, HP's new CEO, Leo Apotheker, finally revealed his grand strategic vision for restoring HP to its innovative roots, or as the company's press release put it, "its vision to provide seamless, secure, context-aware experiences for the connected world." So, it took six months to come up with a vision that Dilbert might summarize as: "The cloud is good, software's more profitable than hardware, and I like openness." This is just the sort of substance Carly Fiorina made famous when she added 'invent' to the HP logo. After trading in a bean-counting cost-cutter, who at least returned HP to profitability, for a new CEO superstar, I'm beginning to think HP has gone back to the future with Apotheker: all Carly's (lack of) substance without the flash and charisma.
Lest you think I'm being overly harsh, take a look through the release and slide presentation; they're littered with conventional wisdom, meaningless buzzwords, and vague reassurances of HP's leadership, size, and trustworthiness. Take this yawner for example (quoting Apotheker), "We see clearly a world in which the impact of cloud and connectivity is changing not only the user experience, but how individuals, small businesses, and enterprises will consume, deploy, and leverage information technology." Now that's going out on a limb. Furthermore, one of HP's strengths, its fine enterprise hardware, areas where it has spent boatloads of money on acquisitions the past few years, gets short shrift. The focus is now on cloud, connectivity and software -- talk about jumping on the bandwagon. One wonders if BladeSystem, 3PAR, and Virtual Connect are now primarily vehicles to sell software and services?
Even in an area of burgeoning technical strength -- connectivity -- where HP has made major advancements in virtualization and where its expanding product line is making Cisco sweat, its strategy creates more confusion than clarity. It's pretty hard to understand how a statement like "HP and its ecosystem of partners will continue to provide context-aware experiences for consumers, SMBs, and large enterprises with secure information creation, digitization, transformation, and consumption -- anytime, anywhere," relates to its existing networking business, much less translates into new products.
About the only substantive statements I saw were the introduction of the new Vertica business analytics/intelligence appliance (an interesting piece of hardware that should get Oracle's attention) and the announcement that HP intends to incorporate WebOS into PCs and printers (only the second piece is really new since their intention to embed WebOS on PCs leaked several weeks ago). WebOS is actually mentioned prominently throughout, which seems to invalidate recent rumors that HP might pull an IBM and abandon the consumer market entirely. In fact, the WebOS angle seems to be what most post-game reports are fixated on, perhaps in wishful thinking that HP will use the Palm platform to wage a mobile device death match with Apple and Google, providing ample fodder for business analysts and IT journalists alike. Perhaps, but again the entire presentation is so amorphous that it's likely serving as nothing more than a Rorschach test: Apotheker is inviting customers and analysts alike to project their own wants and needs onto his murky, PowerPoint canvas.
I hope I'm wrong and that there is indeed more meat behind this skeleton of a strategy, but in light of similar experiences a decade ago under Carly, we may indeed find there's no there there.
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