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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 1, 2011 at 11:33 AM

D9: HP’s Apotheker on WebOS, Microsoft and Apple’s approach

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Seven months after becoming chief executive of the world’s largest computer maker, Leo Apotheker came on stage with Walt Mossberg at All Things D and clarified that HP doesn’t just make computers.

Apotheker, who is pushing HP to build up its enterprise services businesses, said it’s the largest technology company.

“HP’s trying to position itself at the convergence of all these technologies” such as the cloud, security and analytics, he said.


Apotheker said 26 percent of HP’s business is with consumers and that’s a good proportion. The consumer business and brands help especially as large companies incorporate more consumer products into their technology mix, he said.

Mossberg asked about HP’s plans for WebOS, the operating system it acquired by buying Palm, and whether the company is aiming for end-to-end capability – from software through hardware – similar to Apple.

“Yes we are, and we also want to do the same thing for the enterprise,” Apotheker said.

Apotheker said he regrets not releasing WebOS products sooner, and he’s tried to shelter the organization from HP’s large bureaucracy.

The company has released several phones based on the software and will begin selling an iPad-like tablet based on the software this summer.

“That’s just the beginning … we want to create this holistic ecosystem around WebOS,” he said.

Apotheker reiterated plans to use the software on other devices, but he didn’t say when it might replace Microsoft Windows on HP computers. “In the beginning it will sit on top” of Windows, he said.

“The intention is to get WebOS out there on every PC and WebOS will be on every printer we ship,” he said.

How does it sound in Redmond, Mossberg asked.

“HP and Microsoft are strong partners. We talk a lot.”

Apotheker said the PC business is going through a transformation. One reason is the capabilities on tiny ARM mobile processors, which is leading to a variety of new form factors for computers.

Pressed on whether Windows will continue to be used on HP PCs, Apotheker said “there will still be a significant market” for Windows PCs in four or five years.

That apparently means not all HP PCs will have Windows in the future. Currently 100 percent of HP’s PCs use Windows but Apotheker wouldn’t get specific about the future mix of Windows to WebOS PCs that his company will sell.

“It can be 80 (percent), it can be 70, I can’t make that prediction,” he said.

Apotheker took a swipe at Google’s approach with its Chrome platform, which transfers most computing to servers rather than the local device. He said “constraints on the network will require a richer client” and you “can’t do it all on the servers.”

Asked about the potential of WebOS to compete, Apotheker said Apple’s current lock on the tablet market won’t last forever.

“Currently the pad business is iPad. I’m not sure it’s going to stay like this forever … It’s a big growing market, many opportunities, I believe we’re in a long marathon.”



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