HP's Léo Apotheker: We're heading to the cloud

In an exclusive interview, HP's new CEO expands on his strategy and offers frank assessments of his competition

A day after Hewlett-Packard CEO Léo Apotheker outlined his strategic vision for HP -- a plan chock-full of new cloud offerings -- he sat down with IDG Enterprise Chief Content Officer John Gallant and InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr to share his thoughts on a wide variety of issues in this latest installment of the IDGE CEO Interview Series. In this conversation, Apotheker, who's been with HP just over four months, talked about why HP is better positioned than IBM to help customers deliver on the promise of cloud and how he plans to rapidly eclipse the likes of IBM, Oracle, and others in the analytics market. (Short answer: Apotheker will leave old-school BI to the other players. HP's focus will be on analytics and Big Data.)

When it comes to the server market, Apotheker isn't shy about assessing Cisco's prospects, saying John Chambers and company are neither a threat nor an annoyance: HP simply doesn't see Cisco in sales situations. Apotheker also has strong views for IT executives on how consumerization and the cloud will reshape their jobs and their role in the corporation. Read on for more on HP's mobile strategy and cloud offerings, how HP's service offerings will evolve to support private cloud, and how HP needs to "sell itself" better to customers, investors, and partners.

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?

Léo Apotheker: I'm almost tempted to say I don't think I need to answer that question, but I won't go that far. There must be more than one person as the right person to be the CEO of HP. I would be pretty arrogant to believe that there is only one human being on the whole planet who is capable of doing that.

This being said, 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. And some of it you've heard yesterday and today.

I think we have been able as a team, and I take the responsibility for this, to articulate an encompassing, spanning vision for HP on a given direction we want to take this company, and I think there is buy-in within the company to go and follow that route, which is important. You can't travel on that journey all by yourself. Having spent a lot of time with customers, I believe many customers will respond to this equally well. And I will work very hard to transform this vision into reality, which is why I think I was the right person for the job.

Gallant: You mentioned that you spent the past four months or so out talking to employees, talking to customers, talking to partners. What is the perception of HP among those different communities right now? What did you find in talking to them?

Apotheker: A lot of good news, and a few things that we need to fix. First of all, HP is a trusted brand among customers. People really like HP. People enjoy working with HP, and I have actually met many customers who all said the same: They would love to buy more from HP. So that's very good.

Our employees are committed, passionate people who really know their stuff. They're very good. They want to be more engaged, they want to feel more connected to the company. They want the company to have a vision of where it wants to go.

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