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HP's New CEO – Press Pass

Chair in the backyard

I talk with the press frequently. They thankfully whack down my ramblings into concise quotes. For those who prefer to see more, here’s a new category of posts: Press Pass.

I IM’ed with IDG’s Chris Kanaracus about HP hiring Léo Apotheker for CEO. Here’s what I said:

Recent History

I’m loath to theorize on executive hires like this, but here’s the obvious stuff:

  1. Leo oversaw one of the worst enterprise software bungles of the year, raising maintenance pricing during a recession.
  2. SAP’s continually inability to deliver a SaaS offering didn’t start under Apotheker, but it didn’t end either. Ideally, leadership would be installed that knew how to do the technology behind a SaaS, market it, and more importantly, believed in it. Perhaps those things exist at SAP, but the outcomes – a wildly successful SaaS enterprise software offering, if only part of the overall pie, a la SalesForce – haven’t occured.

All of that said, hindsight criticism of SAP is fraught with problems for us Yankees. I’ve followed SAP for several years now, and I don’t totally understand the different incumbent power brokers, German labor unions, and other stuff that doesn’t exist for American based technology companies. Like most elder technology companies, SAP is an organism all of it’s own beyond the complete control of any one individual.

HP Software

Looking at HP: most everyone I talk to agrees that HP needs to get their software act together. While they have great assets (as one example, most every QA department uses HP testing software, another example: OpsWare, or whatever they call it now), there isn’t a sense of a unified software strategy like you have with, say, IBM.

And, thus, Leo being “a software guy,” you’d hope he’d pay more attention to that than “a hardware guy.” Having a good software portfolio helps drive so much else – be it hardware, services, etc.

And then the speculation of HP buying SAP.

Chris asks me about getting enterprise apps vs. following a more middleware focus, as with IBM Software.

The idea of exactly duplicating IBM is a bit misleading. The more important thing in “duplicating” someone you think is successful is duplicating their tactics, not the exact things they do. And, IBM just say they don’t do applications. And then there’s that whole Lotus division. Not to mention the analytics stuff they’re getting into, e.g., Sterling Commerce, etc.

The thing with HP is that, as a company, they make a tremendous amount of money: in that billions and billions that you can’t really fully comprehend [as Chris put in his story, “HP generates north of $100 billion in revenue each year”]. But they’re not really known for or as anything at the moment other than charging a lot for printer ink (a barrel costs more than a barrel of oil, right?), decent servers (they do well here), and niche software products that seem to work in isolation (their QA success, HP Orchestrator/OpsWare).

If you wanted to be an “HP CIO,” there’s not much of an ethos, road-map, or sort of “brand” to sign up for. There’s not much to identify with to motivate you to stay with or buy from HP vs. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc.

All that said, those stupendous revenue numbers seem to make that not much of a problem at the moment.

Also, see James’ piece on Apotheker leaving SAP from back in Feb, 2010.

Disclosure: SAP is a client, as is IBM. HP has been a client in the past.

Categories: Enterprise Software, Press Pass.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] on HP’s decision to hire Leo Apotheker as its new CEO, and nor will I be the last (our other coverage here) So what perspective can I bring that others might have missed? If nothing else I have met the […]