View from the airport: what next for HP?

Jane McCallion reflects on the messages from this year’s HP Discover conference and considers what the future holds for HP

This year's HP Discover has been unusual as a flagship annual corporate conference, and for good reason.

While new products have certainly been announced, such as Helion CloudSystem 9, new additions to the 3Par StorServe family, and new converged storage options, CEO Meg Whitman's opening keynote focused very strongly on the company's plans post 1 November.

As she pointed out, this is the last Discover conference before HP splits in two, becoming Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.

There was an overt, if not quite explicit, air of reassuring enterprise customers and channel partners about their relationship with the company following the spin off.

"In the kind of environment we all face today, I would say work is never done, but I can confidently say that we are making real progress," said Whitman in her opening remarks. "This progress has enabled us to take a deep look at our company and what we can do to better serve all of you.

"As you know, our answer was to separate into two new, industry leading Fortune 500 companies: Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. Hewlett Packard Enterprise will build on HP's leading position in services, software, servers, storage, networking, virtual desktops, plus our Helion cloud platform. And we will continue to invest in and invent entirely new ways to compute. Capabilities that go way beyond the conversations that our competitors are having. Capabilities that will be able to support the demands of the new style of business to more effectively and efficiently deliver the outcomes that matter to you.

"Whether it's running a more traditional IT environment more effectively or making the inevitable transition to a secure, agile, cloud-enabled global-ready future, or most likely doing both.

"We are confident that the separation will give both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc a new level of focus, agility and efficiency. We will be even more innovative and even more competitive and we hope to have an even deeper connection to each and every one of you."

As well as how the company will work, Whitman also took time to explain what Hewlett Packard Enterprise will represent as an organisation - an explanation that centred largely around the company's rather surprising new logo.

This is it:

HP logo

No, you're not seeing things and it's not 1 April, that really is just a green rectangle with the words "Hewlett Packard Enterprise", and it is honestly the new branding.

According to Whitman, though, it's far more than just an oblong -- it's a "powerful expression" of who Hewlett Packard Enterprise is.

"We wanted to build on the past and create a brand that supports the business we are today and helps define what we will become in the future. We wanted to create an identity that also represents our simpler structure and more focused portfolio," she said.

"There are two things we really wanted to get across: first, the simplicity of the logo is symbolic. That is what Hewlett Packard Enterprise will be about, making it simple for our customers and partners to do business with us, be precise in our engineering and our innovation. Second is the colour and the shape. There is not a lot of green in our industry -- the colour green is symbolic of growth and opportunity and my personal favourite, sustainability. The rectangle symbolises a window of opportunity for what we can build together. When it is all said and done, we want the new Hewlett Packard Enterprise to represent the rich legacy of HP and the exciting future ahead of us and ahead of you."

There was even an "emerald isle" section in the middle of the HP Discover exhibition hall dedicated to selling this verdant rebranding exercise.

The company's enthusiasm hasn't quite been met by the delegates here, though -- I've heard various combinations of incredulity, scoffing and plain bafflement.

I don't think it will ultimately have any effect on the success of the business -- people will get used to it soon enough. But the initial reaction is perhaps demonstrative of the uncertainty surrounding the split among customers and partners, despite Whitman in her second day keynote saying she hoped HP had "given [customers and partners] confidence in the kind of company we're building and the strength of [its] commitment to [them]".

So what next for HP, or rather Hewlett Packard Enterprise? Has Whitman and her team managed to deliver a convincing message to reassure customers and partners that spinning off Hewlett Packard Enterprise is a good idea?

The answer seems to be yes.

Crawford Del Prete, an analyst with IDC, told me that "HP is setting itself up well for the split. Its message is relevant and resonates with customers from what I have seen". Casual conversations I've had with customers and partners fell in line with this as well.

But, as Crawford pointed out "this only leads up to the split".

"The next chapter will be in sales and other related go to market activities like channels and support," he said.

Other analysts have been even cooler, telling me HP, even as Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is still a siloed company, and the lack of collaboration between business units is hindering the delivery of a new strategy that was the focus to Whitman's keynote.

Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and even by this time next year we probably won't know really how successful the split and realignment have been. But it will be interesting, nonetheless, to see if that green growth power of the logo has really started to rub off on the new Hewlett Packard Enterprise in 12 months' time.

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