HP CEO Meg Whitman makes confident public debut

Whitman strikes confident yet apologetic, conciliatory tone with enterprise customers but tacitly snubs her predecessor

HP CEO Meg Whitman

COMMENT: Meg Whitman, the new CEO of HP, has made her first significant public debut at the company's Discover event for enterprise customers in Vienna.

Whitman, who was appointed just nine weeks ago, appeared upbeat and confident, striking a conciliatory, collaborative tone which we think was designed to assuage the nerves of any jittery enterprise customers.

She tacitly acknowledged the rocky tenure of her immediate predecessor Leo Apotheker, saying the company, its employees and customers "could do with a little less excitement". She also acknowledged that "this kind of CEO transition is hard on customers, employees and the people we work with every day".

Unsurprisingly, Whitman appeared to make a veiled repudiation of the perceived enterprise software-centric strategy of her predecessor. She stated that the company was "not in the software business to transform HP into a software company" but to help enterprises with their businesses and problems. "Our goal is to help you find value in your enterprise and help you unlock it," she added.

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Despite this veiled rebuke, Whitman still listed software as one of HP's core strengths alongside its global scale and reach, its services and customer-centric solutions. She also focused her attention on British IT company Autonomy, the acquisition of which was one of Apotheker's biggest decisions, saying she was "very excited about Autonomy joining the HP family" and that with Autonomy's IDOL software, the company would "now be able to solve a host of IT problems" for its enterprise customers.

Despite her largely confident debut, Whitman's speech lasted roughly half an hour and was sandwiched in between speeches by other HP executives, which is an odd way to present the CEO's strategic keynote.

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