Dell, HPE CEOs Debate the Merits of Their Strategies - Page 2

However, even before the split, Whitman was shedding businesses she didn't view as core pieces. HP last year sold its TippingPoint security unit for $300 million and a majority share of its China-based networking subsidiary H3C for $2.6 billion. Since the breakup, HPE this year announced plans to spin out its enterprise services business and merge it with Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) in a deal valued at $8.5 billion, and now is making the move with software.

(Even in the midst of paring down HPE, Whitman is still willing to buy other companies to fill gaps, including Aruba Networks last year and supercomputer maker SGI for $275 million this year).

While Michael Dell talks about size and scale, Whitman talks about the need to be smaller and more agile. Speaking specifically about Dell, she said during a conference call with journalists and analysts that the trend is toward greater focus and flexibility.

"We are getting smaller while they're getting bigger," Whitman said. "And this is important, because I believe speed and agility is critical in innovation and go-to-market. The second is they're leveraging up and we are deleveraging. We have $5.3 billion of net cash on the operating company and we're going to have a lot more by the time we're done with these transactions and that gives us dry powder."

She also said HPE is "leaning into new technology, either through our own innovation, acquisitions or partnerships, and we've got major focus on our side. What they're doing is doubling down on old technology. … That might be quite successful for the leadership team there, from a financial perspective, I'm not so sure it's good for customers."

Whitman noted that HPE is now a $28 billion company, which is only slightly smaller than Dell's enterprise business, putting the companies on more equal footing when talking about enterprise IT. She also said that while Dell is taking on more than $50 billion in debt to finance the EMC deal, HPE has $5.3 billion of cash.

"What's happening now is technology is moving at lightning speed, and my view is that the next five years are going to belong to the nimble, the fast and the focused," Whitman said in an interview with CNBC. "So the contrast with Dell could not be more stark. They're getting bigger while we're getting smaller."