HP and Salesforce could be made for each other

Sometimes an executive can deny something while opening the door to speculation. HP offices did that on Tuesday when while maintaining they could see no reason why their company would have an interest in buying Salesforce.

Sometimes an executive can deny something while opening the door to speculation. HP offices did that on Tuesday when while maintaining they could see no reason why their company would have an interest in buying Salesforce.com they opened the door to conjecture that HP may just do exactly that.

At HP Software Universe in Vienna on Tuesday, the company had its executive team out in force. One of the themes that emerged from the day was that HP is focused on software-as-a-service (SaaS) and the executives outlined, in great detail, their company's presence in that market, its ambitions and its prospects. As they pointed out, after a slow-ish start in SaaS, HP aims to catch-up fast.

One of the market leaders in the SaaS field is Salesforce.com so it seemed natural that the name of Salesforce would come up.

Andy Isherwood, vice-president of software services for HP Europe was asked if HP was considering buying Salesforce. "Never say never, " was his enigmatic reply.

Asked to elaborate, Isherwood did. "When you look at the assets in HP we have a huge amount of SaaS assets," he told ZDNet UK. "Look at Snapfish. What is it? It is a software as a service in the cloud. We have a lot of capability. So we could look at it as though we were going to treat all of the elements inside HP as elements of the cloud or we could bring it all together [in a product]."

Did this mean that HP may be interested in buying Salesforce? We asked another executive, Steen Lomholt-Thomsen, the vice-president and general manager for HP Software Europe. He had just been talking about the ways in which HP can continue to expand its presence in the SaaS market, including its big presence in systems and services management. Why not ask him if it was logical for HP to get into the areas if applications and, say, the CRM market, the home of Salesforce.com?

"We are kind of in between the operating system and the application and right now I see no changes to that strategy," said Lomholt-Thomsen. So he sees no possibility of a link-up with Salesforce.com? "On the other hand we all know those lines are getting a little bit blurred so it is entirely difficult to predict how that market will look twelve months from now," he told ZDNet UK.

"So if you took our strategy, right now we are right in the middle but it is a little bit difficult to predict how it may end."

So is a purchase of Salesforce.com likely? Well, both executives said it did no fit in with HP's strategy but both hinted that it was not likely, in the next twelve months and neither ruled out it happening after that.

If we bear in mind that just prior to talking to the two executives, the assembled press had their ears bent by the other senior executives pointing out the cash-rich position of HP, then we know it has plenty of money for acquisitions.

Add to that HP's stated position that it is only interested in buying companies that are number one or number two in their markets and the fact that Salesforce is number one in the CRM SaaS market and you have a good rumour.

The only questions left are does the management of Salesforce have an interest in selling and what is the position of HP's arch-rival, IBM?

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