Immediately after former HP CEO Mark Hurd left the company under an embarrassing cloud in early August, the world's largest IT company entered a period of intense external scrutiny and second-guessing centered on its strategic positioning for the future, its ability to move as fast as smaller competitors, and its relatively small software business.
Then, in late September, HP surprised the IT world by picking former SAP executive Leo Apotheker to be its new CEO, clearly betting that his long-time tenure in sales at SAP would compensate for his glaring lack of success as a CEO.
As I wrote in a column called Global CIO: HP CEO Apotheker Has Deep Expertise But Checkered History, I offered this perspective on HP's new CEO:
"Let's take a look back just eight months ago at the state of SAP when Apotheker was ousted by chairman Hasso Plattner at a time when the company had clearly lost its way in the market, was getting hammered by Oracle, seemed unable to get vital new products out the door, and was frighteningly out of touch with its customers. . . .
"Here was the state of SAP at the time of Apotheker's ouster in early February: Plattner said SAP had lost the trust of its customers and its partners, and that SAP employees were "not happy" employees. He said the company's development models were outdated. You can read extensive analyses of Plattner's comments, as well as his verbatim remarks themselves, in these two columns: Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner and Global CIO: SAP's Last Chance: It's The Customers, Stupid!."
As for Apotheker's comments since taking over at HP, they're been almost nonexistent. Here's a glimpse at what he'll want to pursue with regard to software, from a recent column called Global CIO: HP CEO Leo Apotheker's Agenda: What Will He Do First?:
"HP should be more valuable than the sum of its parts," Apotheker said in a conference call with analysts.
"And in order to make that happen, we all believe, and HP has a long-standing commitment to that, that software is sort of the glue to make that happen. Software is how we differentiate on our industry-standard platform. Software is how we can make sure that the various parts of our technology actually fit well together.
"It's not only software though. Also higher value-added services are increasingly an important element and an important component in the strategy as well. So you should see us working on all of these elements."
He was then asked why type of software HP will invest in: "You know, HP has such a diversified mix of businesses and products and services that I believe that we are uniquely positioned to be a strong player in every part of the stack."
Pretty bland stuff, to be sure—after all, Apotheker's only been on the job for several weeks and the company has said he's been traveling the world to meet with customers and employees. But one person very close to HP had some things to say about Apotheker and HP that were anything but bland—and here's a choice example from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison:
"I'm speechless," [Ellison] wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal. "HP had several good internal candidates…but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP."
Well, now everyone will be watching to see what kind of job Apotheker does in running HP in 2011.
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
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