The best of Leo: Highlights from interview with HP's CEO

Apotheker answers questions from (and sometimes gets snippy with) IDG's John Gallant and InfoWorld's Eric Knorr

A day after unveiling his strategy for HP, chief executive Leo Apotheker talked with IDG's John Gallant and InfoWorld's Eric Knorr about how HP will succeed in the cloud, his plans for the company to become an analytics powerhouse, and his perplexity over this odd American tradition known as March Madness. OK, maybe not the last one.

In the four months since being named chief executive of Hewlett Packard, Leo Apotheker has been a relatively unseen presence, his low visibility raising questions about his strategy for HP at a time of rapid transformation in enterprise and consumer markets.

(Also see: Stepping out from Hurd's shadow, HP looks to the cloud)

On Monday, Apotheker outlined his vision for the computer maker as a provider of cloud-based services for enterprises and a marketplace for consumer and business applications. Apotheker's plan puts HP squarely in competition with, among others, Google and Amazon.

A day after unveiling his strategy for HP, Apotheker talked exclusively with IDG Enterprise Chief Content Officer John Gallant and InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr about how HP will succeed in the cloud, his plans for the company to become an analytics powerhouse, and his perplexity over this odd American tradition known as March Madness. (OK, maybe not the last one.) Here are some highlights from the long interview, which turns testy in a couple of places: John Gallant: When you were announced as CEO, there was some surprise in the industry. What do you want to tell our readers about why you're the right person for this job, at the right time for HP? Leo Apotheker: I'm almost tempted to say I don't think I need to answer that question, but I won't go that far. Me: Except he sort of did go that far, before continuing... Apotheker: I believe that I bring to the table a certain number of unique assets, like any other human being when they're brought to the table. Mine is to have a pretty broad view on what information technology is and where it can go, and then translate that into a strategy and then into an executable plan. I think that's the main reason I am where I am. Gallant: Leo, what did you mean when you told Businessweek that HP has lost its soul? Apotheker: Well, HP is a company that had a very distinct way of being. HP is not just -- and I don't want to sound arrogant again -- but HP is not just any other company. There's a history behind us: the HP way. ... We're talking about a culture -- we're talking about a way of being, a way of doing things. And over the last years, I think that the HP way has been oppressed a bit, and the HP way is the soul, the heart and soul of HP. Knorr: In the broad portfolio of capabilities that you've presented, it seems to overlap almost 100 percent with what IBM is doing. How do you intend to differentiate your strategy from IBM's approach? Apotheker: I would qualify it slightly differently: IBM overlaps 100 percent with us. I mean, HP has been doing these things for years -- we didn't really call them out this way -- but this is nothing really that revolutionary or new. But we actually have one, if not two, strategic advantages over IBM. One is we understand the consumer business, so therefore we understand the endpoint devices. And that is a huge advantage, which IBM has given away when they sold their PC business to Lenovo. And secondly, we have deep insight into security and manageability, which helps us to secure and manage the entire stack in cloud -- and that is a second immense advantage that we have over IBM. Gallant: I think it's very interesting for our enterprise IT readers to learn more about the app store, because mostly what they know of app stores is that they're consumer products, consumer apps. What should people know about this? What is there for an enterprise IT person to understand? Apotheker: Well, you know, it would give CIOs an opportunity to put at the disposal of the users apps that can be easily consumed by employees of the enterprise that have been certified, approved, secured, and were conformed to IT strategy and IT procedures and processes. Gallant: What are the myths or misunderstandings about HP? Apotheker: I think HP is a company that hasn't done a very good job in selling itself. HP has such a rich collection of assets and such a wide portfolio that it should be used by professionals and consumers alike in a totally different light than the way it's being viewed today. I'm not saying it's being viewed badly, but I think it's being undervalued, and I think we have a great opportunity to put HP where it really belongs.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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