Whitman defends HP: Dings Surface, Cisco, pledges innovation

Whitman defends HP: Dings Surface, Cisco, pledges innovation

Summary: In a no-BS performance at Gartner's Symposium, HP CEO Meg Whitman takes a few shots and dishes a few out. Unfortunately, results from HP's makeover won't appear until 2014.


HP CEO Meg Whitman on Wednesday moved to allay fears of enterprise technology buyers, ensure the company will be around for the long-haul, stick with the services business, develop groundbreaking hardware and invest in innovation.

In other words, Whitman had a tough to-do list and had to counter some FUD laid by Cisco CEO John Chambers on Tuesday. "I want to instill in you confidence that HP will be here for the long term and that we will lead," said Whitman.

The CIOs at Gartner Symposium have a lot invested in HP. HP's troubles become tech leader headaches.

And Whitman had a tough set-up. Before the keynote there were a bevy of questions from Gartner Symposium attendees via video. The questions revolved around a potential HP breakup, health of the PC business and whether it can compete. In other words, Whitman had one helluva sell job ahead.


Whitman said she had to figure out what HP did well and that's engineering and a commitment to quality products. "It's hard to kill founder DNA," she said. Overall, Whitman said HP is a solutions company that's broader than just hardware or software. "We invented that idea of converged infrastructure," she said.

She was asked about Chambers and his take that HP faces long odds. "In certain areas we compete and we aim to win," said Whitman, referring to networking. "Don't bet against us. I'd rather have my hand than John's hand right now. We are the No. 1 networking company in China."

That China dig is notable given Cisco and Huawei are duking it out.

Here are the key points from Whitman on HP's priorities and my take on whether she was convincing:

  • On whether hardware is being commoditized, Whitman said the "demand for compute power is not going down. It's going up." HP needs to have the best engineered hardware and stay ahead of the innovation curve. "Look at our new ARM-based server, which will be delivered next year. This will be revolutionary to the server business," she said.

My take: HP does need a Moonshot so to speak. An ARM server could be disruptive. Overall, HP seems behind in the server race---especially when using the latest Intel processors.

  • "Next year is going to be a fix and rebuild year," said Whitman. "I want to build this for the long term."

My take: It will take a few years to believe in HP.

  • Whitman said she spent 9 months understanding the services business and that it will be on the right path. Gartner has told clients that customers should aim to renegotiate and get ahead of contract changes designed to boost HP margins. "Take another look at HP services," said Whitman. "There are trouble accounts---all services businesses have them. We will not leave anyone hanging. We will have an adult conversation." The translation here is that HP signed some deals that aren't profitable and needs to get out of them.

My take: This services rebuilding effort will take time. HP is No. 2 in services, but isn't high on the food chain. Customers and HP will have to renegotiate terms and that won't be fun.

  • Regarding 2014---the year HP is supposed to be on the right path and showing financial returns---Whitman said the company has to deliver better results. "I want to set this company up," she said. HP will invest in R&D, move the back office to the cloud and build momentum. "I think we're going to be fine in 2014."

My take: Whitman was convincing, but a payoff two years from now won't allay current concerns.

  • Security is a big focus for HP and could ultimately be its software secret sauce. HP talked TippingPoint, enterprise security and building in protection into infrastructure.

My take: Whitman was convincing and has good security assets. The story needs to be refined.

  • Whitman talked information optimization---HP's take on big data. Here Whitman highlighted unstructured data, talked the importance of chief marketing officers and customer information and real-time analytics. "Autonomy does this better than anyone else," she said. Whitman said marketing chiefs matter, but HP "will also work through the CIO." "As CEO, I don't want everybody buying technology. I want to control that. If someone is buying technology I want it in the context of the CIO office," she said.

My take: Whitman sounds old school regarding the centralization and CIO riff. At least, she didn't run off with IBM's CMO pitch.

  • "We're ahead on cloud," said Whitman, referring to 2,000 public cloud beta customers and a bevy of private cloud efforts. Whitman said HP has centralized its cloud on one architecture.

My take: HP can talk cloud, but it'll take time.

  • On unconventional competitors, HP said there are whole set of new logos. We have to look beyond the normal competitors.

My take: That would be a non-answer.

  • Best acquisition for HP was 3Par (and plugs for others). The worst: "There have been challenging acquisitions," said Whitman not naming names. "You'll have to remember I ran for Governor of California."

My take: Cheeky non-answer.

  • "We're reinventing this company to win for the next 75 years," she said. HP needs more R&D, go-to-market strategies and a lot of change. "It's risky, but doing nothing is a bad strategy," she said.

My take: Whitman's long-term focus is nice to hear.

  • Biggest challenge HP faces is to articulate what the strategy for the company is and what role they play.

My take: There's also a strategy messaging issue outside the company.

  • On smartphones, Whitman said:

We have a tremendous set of personal devices. We have to go from the workstation to desktops to laptops to the hybrid devices and ultimately if we do a smartphone we'll decide what OS we use. We won't have a smartphone in 2013, but will beyond that. If we are in the personal compute business the smartphone is the primary device in many parts of the world. The mobile move will require pacing and sequencing.

My take: Whitman is absolutely correct. It needs to be a mobile player.

  • On tablets, Whitman said that it will focus on hybrids that are enterprise grade. She also said that HP's wares will compete well with the Surface, "which doesn't function like a laptop." "It lacks a keyboard you can do real work on," said Whitman. She added that HP's hybrids will be enterprise friendly as the Surface is more consumer focused.

My take: HP has a point. Ultimately, HP will be judged on its enterprise tablet sales.

  • HP is staying in the PC business, said Whitman. PCs are in the company's history. There are supply chain synergies.

My take: Whitman had to talk PC stability. After all, HP still has to sell PCs.

Bottom line: Whitman served up a good deal of detail and was very credible. What's unclear is whether she'll have the time to set HP up for decades to come. 

Topics: Cloud, Big Data, Data Centers, Mobility

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  • smart phone 2014 ?

    why take the so long to get one? are they going to dev their own OS? i doubt it. So what left is android, WP , webos and BB(?) that should take 1 year to get a decent phone. what are they thinking.
    • Smart Phone 2014??


      HP has had 2 separate phones in the past. The iPaq and the Palm. Neither were received well even though the iPaq is still around. HP is correct in stating it could be 2 years or more for a HP version of a phone to become a reality. They don't want to be burned again.
      • it is not the same

        ipaq is doing fine at that time, palms webos has no ecosystem at all. It is so hard to break android and ios now. new os is impossible. what left is android or WP. They should pick one and desing a great phone to host it.
        I doubt HP can do that, their hardware design just bad. Look at what they doing for Windows 8 ? If they are serious, put more resources in R&D and get a great phone
  • Stop throwing mud on Surface.

    Click bait headline?
    • Uhhh,

      Did you read the article? From the article: "On tablets, Whitman said that it will focus on hybrids that are enterprise grade. She also said that HP's wares will compete well with the Surface, "which doesn't function like a laptop." "It lacks a keyboard you can do real work on," said Whitman. She added that HP's hybrids will be enterprise friendly as the Surface is more consumer focused."

      Sounds like a "ding" to me, at least in the context she is using.
  • I don't see any ding to Surface other than the headline

    >>•On tablets, Whitman said that it will focus on hybrids that are enterprise grade. She also said that HP's wares will compete well with the Surface, "which doesn't function like a laptop." "It lacks a keyboard you can do real work on," said Whitman. She added that HP's hybrids will be enterprise friendly as the Surface is more consumer focused.

    Microsoft never portraying Surface RT for enterprises and OTOH, Surface Pro for power users, and of course Surface Pro can be adopted by Enterprises, but doesn't necessarily be and I don't Microsoft would necessarily be stepping into its OEM partners zones there. It could capture some of BYOD places with Surface Pro and thats all. She has a valid point and but that point is not necessarily a ding to Surface.
    Ram U
  • Physical Keyboards on mobile devices are part of the past, not the future

    Physical keyboards are more of a necessity of the past inability to build touch screen devices. Touch screen devices are the future of mobile. You can be either accept it or get run over by it.
    • People have been using "touch screen keyboards", and they're not happy with

      the experience, and now, many of them are clamoring for the physical keyboards again, even if they can't be like the traditional keyboards that "fit" most hands.

      Perhaps it's you that's being left behind and in danger of getting run over by what people really want.
  • With Whitman, Wait

    With Whitman, it's always the future. She be full of excuses in 2013, 2014 and until HP's directors replace her with a do-er instead of a talker
    • Good riddance

      I am so happy we didn't allow her and her millions into the governor's office in California. Hiring her will have the same tragic result as when they hired Carly. What is wrong with the HP board. Stop hiring Republican woman for that position. Haven't you learned your lesson?
      • Good riddance to California then, siince, your current governor, who was

        "hired" instead of Whitman, isn't doing anything for that state either. In fact, there is nothing that can be done for that state. No matter who is elected.

        Perhaps what's needed in California is for the entire population to be replaced, and to start over with a new set of people, who are not constrained by the liberal mindset, which is what has that state in such a sorry state. The people are the problem.
        • @adornoe, WOW!! Lol! Had to laugh at that one for sure.

          So adornoe, are you predicting a huge quake in Calif's future that drops the poplace into the ole briny blue??

          Thanks for the laugh!
    • Do you think they will be anything left?

      She really should just go away, retire and be happy. She can not manage business. She cost Ebay 2 Billion dollars with Skype - the very same Skype that Microsoft made One Billion dollars of off last Quarter.

      I hope there is some US HP left before she finished. I'd hate to see the USA lose another company.
  • HP too big to fail?

    HP is becoming another GM and sooner or later come begging to the US gov hat in hand.
  • ???????Surface Keyboard?????????????

    Huh? I've seen pictures of Microsoft Surface and they have these things. They have buttons on them and your fingers can press them. They attach to the Surface with magnets. What is that thingy called again. Huh? No wonder HP is in trouble. She doesn't even know what a keyboard looks like. I can only assume that she doesn't use a keyboard and has a secretary do all of her business computing.
  • HP and consumers

    If HP is going to regain any traction in the consumer market, they need to focus on reliability, warranty, and service. Right now, HP shows total contempt for their customers! HP needs to get over the mentality that the consumer is there for them. It is the other way around. They are there for the consumer, and until they "Get it", they cannot compete in the consumer market.

    I tried to repair an HP laptop for a friend recently. I Googled the issue and found hundreds of posts from consumers on HPs own web forum saying they had the exact same hardware failure and HP wouldn't do a thing about it because they were all outside the one year warranty. Not a single one of them will ever buy an HP product again, and I do not blame them. I do not recommend HP products to people.

    HP printers used to last for years, but I have had such a high turn over rate of HP printers, I never know what model to buy anymore. I have printers that self destruct for no visible reason a year after purchase, and consumables that expire on the shelf and cannot be used.

    I have an expensive B size printer that uses the same consumables as the OfficeJet 1200, of which I had 4. All 4 died for no good reasons and I am sitting on 5 printer's worth of consumables and only 1 printer to use them in. The printer says they are expired and cannot be used. I connect the printer to a laptop with the date rolled back 2 years, and then the expired consumables work just fine. The only thing wrong with the ink is that HP designed in Planned Obsolescence. Stuff like that really shows how much contempt HP has for its customers!

    The two things that I can be sure of it that the next model won't use the same consumables, and those consumables will be drastically overpriced. HP needs to change or die, and personally, I don't think they are dying fast enough.
  • Nobody could clean up the mess quickly.

    The Compaq acquisition brought in some product lines superior to what HP had at the time, but execution could have been better. Mark Hurd made some necessary improvements in efficiency but tried to starve R&D, and then Moe, Larry, and Curly would have done less damage than Léo did.

    One might argue the prices paid for Autonomy and 3Par, but their products are impressive, as are the new G8 servers, and there are other new products in the works.

    The mess as big as was left when Léo finally got fired was not big enough to destroy the company, but was far bigger than anyone could turn around quickly. I give credit to the new kid for making some good decisions and not doing anything stupid like her predecessor. I'm buying HP products because they're good and I expect the company to come back.
  • Sexism at Work?

    One has to wonder whether anyone would have commented on the personal appearance of a male CEO.

    Not that anyone will pay attention to the kind of retard that commented here (i8thecat4).
    • Re: Sexism at Work?

      Well, Bill Gates seems pretty emaciated-looking considering his age.

      And I remember a comment that, in a group of major company CEOs, Steve Ballmer looks like he's the bouncer.
    • She is ugly

      She is ugly
      Burger Meister