Whitman: HP has its ‘swagger’ back

16 Feb, 2012

Chief Whitman tells partners to hold their heads high and be proud to be part of an HP ‘you can count on.’

Meg Whitman has promised partners she “won’t let them down” with her plans to make HP a company to be proud of.

In the closing keynote of HP’s first global partner conference in Las Vegas, the chief executive (CEO) of the firm admitted to the mistakes of the past, but promised to be a “steady hand” to turn things around.

Referencing the turbulent reign of Leo Apotheker, Whitman said: “I know last year maybe we didn’t make it the easiest relationship working with HP... and some of the announcements last August caused a lot of confusion around what HP was.”

Android may end up being a closed system because of the Motorola deal.

“So, when I came in in September, I thought the most important thing I could do was get the noise out of the system, the drama out of the headlines and create stability.”

One of the most controversial decisions that Apotheker made was the consideration of spinning off or selling HP’s PC business.

“Boy, did that unsettle the business,” she said. “We are better together than apart and I feel great about making that decision.”

The purchase and subsequent downfall of Palm and its WebOS operating system was something Whitman had to tackle early on as well, but she remained positive her decision to offer the code to the open source community was the right one.

"We needed to provide real clarity on that quickly," she said. "It will take two, three or maybe even four years to fully roll out [but] I believe the industry needs another OS."

"Apple is doing great but iOS is a closed system... Android may end up being a closed system because of the Motorola deal and it is fragmented in many areas... we love working with our partners at Microsoft and Intel, but we still believe there is room for something else."

"Stay tuned," Whitman added. "We are going to be patient with support... and I think over the next three years [WebOS] will become very important."

The CEO buttered up her employees and partners, claiming it was them who had “kept HP working” during the “craziness happening in the boardroom” and promised to make further investments into “people” in the future.

Moving from the past to present, Whitman reiterated the company’s current message, that infrastructure is “at its core” and what HP does best.

"The DNA of this company is infrastructure," she said. "Of our revenues, 70 per cent comes from infrastructure, from servers, storage, networking, printers, PCs... That is the core of who we are and we should stand up and be proud of that."

Whitman also laid worries to rest that HP was going to go the same way of IBM by adding her justification for the company’s software offerings.

"Why are we in the [software] business? To solve tough customer problems... not to transform HP into a software company."

“We use software to optimise and differentiate the infrastructure and solve some of the [customer's] problems."

Whitman concluded her keynote by promising a “doubling down” of investment into research and development internally at HP.

“We will continue to do acquisitions [as] there are always going to be interesting young companies... but the fact of the matter is we need to do a better job of organic innovation,” she said.

“HP Labs [has been] under utilised in recent years. I want to bring HP Labs closer to the business units, to get from incredible idea to market faster. I want that to get more commercial.

“HP is coming back strong after a rough 2011. We have got our swagger back, i hope you do too.”