Apple won't rule device world, says HP after strong quarter

HP sees positive signs in global urbanization for "diversity of devices"

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) reported a 13% revenue increase Tuesday for its most recent quarter, a clear sign that IT spending is on the mend.

While CEO Mark Hurd seemed buoyant over the news in a call with financial analysts, he pushed them to think about the real long-term trends affecting IT buying and not to dwell too much on Europe and the falling Euro. The big trends: population growth, urbanization and the unrelenting need for new devices that kind of growth will create.

"The global demographics are rapidly changing, with a fast-growing middle class population migrating to large cities in emerging markets," said Hurd. "In fact, over the next 20 years the pace of urbanization is estimated to be at the rate of about 60 million people a year - this class of people will be expect to be seamlessly and securely connected to the global community with mobile devices and the underlying infrastructure."

Hurd may be reading government reports, such as a National Intelligence Council forecast, which projects that by the year 2025, some 57% of the world's population will live in urban areas, up from 50% today. "Many -- particularly in Asia -- will be joining the middle class and will be seeking to emulate Western lifestyles, which involve greater per capita consumption of all these resources," the report said.

At a later point in the post-earnings call, Hurd was asked specifically about Apple's iPad and what's HP's response will be. Hurd's response was all big picture, no specifics. Hurd said they "never felt" that "one product or one device would become ubiquitous," meaning he's not worried about the iPad because the world is a big place.

It's also crowded. The world population is now at 6.8 billion and it's expected to rise to about 9 billion in 2020.

What HP does see happening is a world turning to "more and more mobility, not less, and more differentiations between what users want to have in terms of capability," said Hurd. "And we expect to play across the gamut of capability."

HP's planned acquisition of Palm Inc. fits in that model. According to Hurd, Palm is being bought for its intellectual property and will used be used across HP's products. HP announced that it was acquiring the smartphone maker for US$1.2 billion last month.

The only hint of concern about the immediate future is the Euro -- and Europe generally -- but HP officials said only about a quarter of the company's revenue isin Euros.

HP's revenue, which hit $30.8 billion for the quarter, was also helped by some strong products made by its partners, said Charles King of Pund-IT Research, particularly Windows 7 and the new generation of Intel chips. "When of those partners make a mistake as Microsoft did Vista it really hurts," said King.

HP has been putting its focus on managing, with increasing levels of automation, a multitude of devices. It's also focused on backend systems in what it calls its converged infrastructure.

In discussing possible acquisition targets, Hurd said the company "continues to be very excited" about companies in the management space, including PCs, storage, networks and the security around those systems.

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Patrick Thibodeau

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