HP: Mobile, tablet game 'just beginning'

With TouchPad availability in June, CEO Leo Apotheker dismisses notion Hewlett-Packard is late to mobility space, pointing to company's "unique" ability to provide products and services across entire ecosystem.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Hewlett-Packard believes it is able to capture the mobile space by leveraging its strength in traditional markets and ability to deliver across the entire information lifecycle, declares its CEO Leo Apotheker, who describes the mobility market as "a marathon, not a sprint".

In a Q&A session teleconference with Asia-Pacific media Tuesday, he outlined the company's focus in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the mobile realm, which he said is seeing the fastest growth in the region.

The German, who took over as CEO in October last year, made his first official appearance in front of tech media and analysts earlier today at the HP Summit in San Francisco, during which he outlined the company's vision to provide "seamless, secure, context-aware experiences for a connected world". The announcement follows Apotheker's comments last month that HP, starting 2012, will include its mobile platform, WebOS, on every PC it ships and as an addition to Microsoft's Windows OS.

There are currently 6,000 WebOS apps, compared to 350,000 in Apple's App Store and 250,000 in Google's Android Market. And while there are already various tablet devices in the market, including Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Apple's iPad, HP's tablet, the TouchPad, has yet to see daylight.

Responding to ZDNet Asia's queries on HP's late entry to the mobile space, Apotheker expressed confidence the company will be able to "fight back" by drawing on its footprint in the PC market.


Leo Apotheker (Photo: HP)

"First of all, we believe the whole notion of mobility and tablets is just the beginning of the race, and not the race. This is not a sprint or the end of a sprint, it's just the beginning of a marathon," he said. Confirming that the TouchPad will be available in June, he added that HP will continue to unveil new WebOS devices "at regular intervals".

To drive adoption of WebOS, the company is aiming to make it "the most attractive platform for any developer" by putting the OS, over time, on any device--in particular, traditional PCs and printers, he said. This market provides a platform of 100 million devices a year, a number which "nobody comes even close to achieving", he added.

HP will also be targeting the space which Apotheker describes as "the intersection of consumer and enterprise", or prosumer, where the company "has traditional strong advantages".

"We will first establish WebOS as a really strong alternative to other operating systems on mobile devices.

"And over time, if we continue to execute well, with the combination [of HP's vision to provide] cloud services, connectivity and security across the entire environment--which makes us rather unique--we can not only fight back at the competition, we can also win against the competition and establish HP as a distinct market leader in this space," he said. "We've done the same thing in the past with PC."

Aiming for "entire information lifecycle"
During his address at the HP Summit, Apotheker outlined a future where computing resources are scalable and energy-efficient, and where enterprises have access to real-time data analytics to gain better insights of their business.

He added that consumers will have "a personal, context-aware experience with products and services that make every interaction feel tailor-made", and software developers can leverage "trusted platforms" that can reach all connected end-points across every segment of the device market.

Devices can also connect to an open marketplace, a "personal cloud" that holds both consumer and enterprise apps and content, he said.

"It is a vision that requires leadership in the consumer, small business and enterprise [market segments], a rich ecosystem of partners and services, a global delivery model, integrated technology from the data centers to the end-points, and a secure information flow across the entire information lifecycle. Who but HP can deliver this?" Apotheker said, pointing to the company's portfolio that spans servers, software, services, desktops and printers, as well as tablets.

Expanding on the company's focus on the Asia-Pacific mobile market, he said HP will be looking to ensure its mobile devices are enabled for the prosumer market and targeting to deliver "relevant apps".

"It's not just [about delivering a high] number of apps but also about providing the most value. We have a good development platform and SDK (software development kit). We've just created a new one that has been downloaded furiously by many developers. We have a 30 percent increase in developer adoption of WebOS, and we'll be targeting certain number of vertical industries in particular to drive the adoption of WebOS.

"You should get ready to get a lot of excitement in the Asia-Pacific in terms of WebOS," he said.

Foo Piau Phang, HP's senior vice president and managing director for Asia-Pacific and Japan, added: "Particularly in the mobility piece, there's a big opportunity in the region where we can add value especially in the area of security, where you're switching between the office and consumer environment.

"So there are opportunities. With our strength and portfolio, we can play a very significant part in assuring and giving confidence to the corporate users, and help their device in an environment where they know their company's interest is being taken care of," said Foo, who sat in on the teleconference.

No plans to sell PC business
Apotheker also dismissed rumors that HP is planning to sell its PC business, which he said plays a crucial component in the company's growth strategy.

Pointing to his presentation earlier today at the HP Summit, the CEO said the PC and device business plays an important role in the company's future. "So we have absolutely no intention of selling that. That was a rumor that originated from some source...so I completely deny that."

He also declined to reveal if there was any intention to do so, noting that discussions among HP's board members are private and not for public consumption. Stressing that this does not confirm there were plans to do so in the first place, he reiterated that the company has "no intention whatsoever" to sell its PC business.

He added that all of the company's business units, spanning software, services and hardware, play an important role in the future of HP, and declined to give any figures on how much each will contribute to the organization's overall growth.

Asked about the impact of Japan's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on HP's operations, Apotheker revealed all its employees in the country are accounted for and safe. The company is currently assessing the situation to determine the impact on its local operations and will only be able to provide more details when this is completed.

"Our first duty is toward our customers in Japan, and ensure they are okay and they can get to HP servers, infrastructure, software and hardware," he said. "It's a bit early for me to give you an answer on the potential, if any, impact on our supply chain. Once we have a fuller picture, I'm sure we can give you a better answer."

According to HP, the TouchPad will be available mid-year in the U.S. and selected markets worldwide, as well as in China by end-2011. "The availability of localized applications, services and content for the HP Touchpad is critical to its success...and we are focusing on first entering markets which we already have a WebOS presence. We are currently engaging developers and content providers in a number of Asia-Pacific countries and look forward to expanding availability in the region."

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