The big WebOS event that Hewlett-Packard has planned for Feb. 9 is expected to include the introduction of its long-awaited WebOS-based answers to the Apple iPad. However, beyond introducing a few devices, the event reportedly will represent the unveiling of a new HP, and one that Leo Apotheker – now four months into his role as CEO of HP – hopes consumers will embrace as cooler and hipper than the enterprise-focused PC giant of yesteryear.
Speaking with the BBC in an exclusive interview during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Apotheker shed a little light on his thoughts about the company, and what he’d like to help it achieve.
“What’s happening is probably the biggest revolution in the history of IT,” Apotheker told the BBC of the current tech market. “The Internet is going totally mobile, the bandwidth is there … so many technologies are converging, and HP is the one company that can put it all together. We want to be the leader in this.”A sprawling company, with interests in a variety of enterprise IT solutions, such as servers, cloud computing, IT services and professional and consumer desktops and laptops, HP – following its July 2010 purchase of Palm – is now also competing in the finicky but lucrative consumer mobile device space. The very enormity of the company, Apotheker told the BBC, can actually be its “basis of strength.”Only HP, he added, can “get the speed of innovation, the ease of use, the accessibility, the wow factor from the consumer side” and “harden it for the enterprise.”As for that “wow factor” – a necessity in the consumer device market, where Apple’s iPhone and iPad have set the bar sky high – Apotheker hinted at a few changes in the works at HP. The first will be the end of the Palm brand, with the planned Feb. 9 devices likely to launch under the HP umbrella instead.Also, HP wants to make better use of the momentum behind events such as the one it has planned by launching its products within weeks of their introduction, before the built-up buzz quiets down.And lastly, HP is shooting for a major cool factor.”I hope one day people will say ‘this is as cool as HP,’ not ‘as cool as Apple,'” Apotheker told the BBC.In addition to the introduction of products that can undisputedly compete at the high-end of the market – as HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley has said that WebOS, with its “true multitasking” capabilities, can – winning over consumer heart-share, along with market share, will require some smart marketing by HP.The company, said Apotheker, has been “undervalued.” While HP leads the global PC market, during the fourth quarter of 2010 it saw its market share dip, as sales of mini notebook PCs in the United States slowed, in part challenged by growing consumer interest in tablets such as the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab – two devices that HP will look to counter with its for-now-still-veiled WebOS tablets.”Shame on us, though,” Apotheker added. ” I don’t think HP has been telling its story as well as it could over the past few years.”On Feb. 9, HP will have the chance to crack the spine on a new book. Whether the consumer marketplace will find it as compelling as Apple’s story, or slick, Android-running devices from Samsung, HTC and others, only time will tell.