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HP's New Strategy: IT Pros Get Their Say

InformationWeek surveyed IT professionals about HP's recent change in course. Bottom line: They want to believe in HP--but don't understand where it's headed.

August was a rough month for Hewlett Packard. But it's hard to feel sorry for a company so battered and bruised when the wounds are almost completely self-inflicted. Poor sales of its TouchPad tablet and a lack of intestinal fortitude for all personal hardware systems led the company to forgo its plans for personal webOS systems, and to announce that it was considering selling its huge personal systems unit. The course change was so dramatic that it resulted in a landmark sell off of HP stock, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind what investors thought about HP's newly announced plans.

But if CEO Leo Apotheker was clear about anything, it was his waning interest in the consumer and his resurgent focus on the business customer. We know what Wall Street thinks, but what about Leo's target audience? How do IT pros view his plans for the new HP? InformationWeek surveyed IT pros to find out.

Based on our survey results, we can sum up what IT pros think of HP's plans, in two words: not much.

Only 5% say they love HP's new direction--an astonishingly low number considering that HP's new direction is all about serving business IT users better. The majority, slightly more than half of respondents, say that they're willing to wait and see what happens. Another 40% say that they neither like nor hate the new direction. Clearly, HP is going to have to win over its customers all over again.

Make no mistake, our poll respondents were indeed HP's North American business customers. All but 10% of them described themselves as users of HP products, with 54% indicating that HP was a primary vendor in one way or another. Everyone who took the poll had to have at least heard of HP's announcements, and 92% said they were either very familiar or somewhat familiar with the details.

The negative reaction was not a holdover from existing feelings about HP or its products: 73% of respondents said that they have found HP's products to be good or great, while 23% said HP products can be hit or miss. Just 4% said that they generally find HP's products inferior. In the world of large IT providers, that's about as much customer love as you're likely to get.

Yet when asked about which HP product lines customers are now willing to buy, only printers and data center gear break the magic 3.0 line (the line between "probably will and probably won't buy" on our 1 to 5 scale). As for personal systems, data management, security software, and enterprise services, our results imply that HP will have a tough time convincing those potential customers.

HP's New Strategy: Exclusive User Research
HP's New Strategy: Exclusive User Research
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Since HP's announcement left the dispensation of its personal systems unit unresolved, it's not surprising that almost two-thirds of respondents say they find those products less desirable. What is surprising is that the desirability of imaging products and data center hardware products was also tarnished-- with 33% and 30% of respondents saying those products are now less desirable, respectively. This has to be something of a worst case scenario for HP, particularly since data center hardware is an area where HP needs to remain strong in order to make a go in other areas such as services and data management software.

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