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

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Knorr: With tablets, what will you be offering the enterprise that Apple can't?

Apotheker: Well, I think two things: There are a certain number of native things that are built into WebOS that made WebOS into a very unique proposition. The best way to describe it is that it's capable of truly multitasking, it's capable of really sharing information, and it's able to synergize a lot of the things that are happening in the Web. The reason for that is it's the only operating system, Apple's included, that has been designed from the ground up to assume that you're always connected. So that's point No. 1.

And point No. 2 is that we are capable -- and that's the thing that makes HP rather unique -- of totally securing and managing these devices for an enterprise with our technology. The CIO can be absolutely at ease with knowing that the devices he will get from HP, he will get something that is totally secured, absolutely manageable. He can switch these things on and off whenever he wants, for any user, and all of the capabilities that are developed with it.

Knorr: What technologies specifically?

Apotheker: You take the classical dilemma that you have as a CIO when you give someone a mobile device. How do I make sure that it's being used in an appropriate way? How do I make sure it's being used in a compliant way? How do I get it out of the user when the user isn't with the company anymore? And if the user doesn't want to give the device back, how do I deactivate it -- instantaneously? These are trivial questions, maybe, but they are hugely important for CIOs. Compliance is a topic that keeps many people awake at night, I can assure you of that.

And maybe last, but not least, but they will come together with the cloud of the convergence again as a capability that we will be able to give people to manage two lives on one device.

Knorr: Now to the question: WebOS and Windows together on the same devices. Given that Microsoft has announced that it's going to have a gesture-based operating system, doesn't that capability then with WebOS become somewhat redundant? And doesn't it point more toward WebOS as a replacement rather than something alongside Windows?

Apotheker: For years to come, we will ship our PCs, laptops, whatever, desktops on Windows with WebOS. They actually complement each other really well. The fact that Windows, that Microsoft, supports ARM going forward is a very important announcement that enables these kinds of things to happen in a very natural, very nonfrictional, and very complementary way. If Microsoft Windows will support gesture-based operating systems, that's good. You make an assumption that you should never make, which is that we will stand still and nothing will change with WebOS. That's not the kind of world we're living in, are we?

Knorr: That kind of begs the question of where WebOS is going.

Apotheker: Fair question. I'll talk to you next time.

Gallant: Léo, I know it's early in the tablet market, despite all the noise about the iPad, but do you envision that the tablet market will split into a consumer tablet market and more of an enterprise or professional tablet market?

Apotheker: I can easily imagine some tablets being rugged for certain environments where the normal, nicely designed, pretty, delicate tablet might not really work that well -- on an oil rig or whatever. That's conceivable; I can imagine that.

I do believe that the tablet technology is not going to stand still, either. It's going to have many iterations. Over time I think we'll see many iterations of form factors -- highly probable. I think we'll see some tablets that will morph into netbooks or borderline netbooks, and netbooks that will morph into borderline tablets. I think we are going to see many iterations of this evolution.

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