HP Chairman Lane Says HP Will Look More Often to Startups for Innovation

Lane says HP can supply the scale if startups and the entrepreneurial community can bring in energy and ideas for new products and services.

CUPERTINO, Calif. --€” In a rare personal appearance before an outside-Hewlett-Packard audience, Executive Chairman Ray Lane on April 3 addressed a conference consisting of several-dozen entrepreneurs, analysts and journalists about the current state of the company, among other topics.

Lane, 64, a former president of Oracle and executive at IBM, offered some perspectives on several topics, including new CEO Meg Whitman, former CEO Leo Apotheker and high-level strategies the company will take in the future.

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Lane spoke at AlwaysOn Network's OnDemand 2012, which was held at HP's soon-to-be-demolished Executive Business Center (EBC). This was one of the last events to be held at the EBC before new property owner Apple tears down the 1960s-era campus and builds its new dream headquarters starting this fall.

When queried by conference host and AO Network CEO Tony Perkins, Lane (pictured) opted not to go into detail about the short but controversial 11-month tenure of CEO Leo Apotheker, who was replaced last September by former eBay CEO and 2010 California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who was already on the HP board of directors.

Calls Apotheker 'a Great Leader'

"I'd rather not comment on that. I respect Leo. I've known him for 20 years. I think he's a great leader. But Silicon Valley is a fast-moving environment, and it just wasn't a fit," Lane said.

Apotheker, who came to HP from German enterprise software maker SAP with great fanfare in September 2010, was fired because of "his poor execution and a lack of leadership," a source told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

On Apotheker's watch, HP announced it was going to either shutter, sell or spin off its $40 billion-per-year Personal Systems Group that makes laptops, desktop and mobile computers; kill its webOS hardware division that made smartphones and tablets; and cut back the webOS software group drastically. The PSG decision has since been rescinded.

Lane, who came to HP's board shortly after Apotheker arrived in 2010, was a key factor in bringing Whitman to the board in January 2011, two months after she lost the election for California governor to former Gov. Jerry Brown.

"I provoked her [Whitman] into doing this [CEO job], and I'm so glad we did. She's a great leader," Lane said. "When she came in, she said, 'Would you help me?' I said, 'What does that mean? I am here to help you.' She said, 'No, I need you to take a slice of time and help me, because you know a lot about software and services. You know the enterprise better than I know the enterprise. It seems like it could be a good team.'

"I talked to my partners [at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers] and they didn't like the idea, but I said, 'You know what, this is a really good idea. I will do whatever will support Meg.' Whether it's 10 percent or 30 percent of my time€”I gave her a cap. I said I'll do anything you ask me to do, but I'll also provide some advice you didn't ask for as well. And I think it's worked out well."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...