HP CEO to reveal strategy March 14

HP has invited journalists to an event with CEO Leo Apotheker in San Francisco

Hewlett-Packard has invited journalists to an event March 14 where CEO Léo Apotheker is expected to lay out his plans for the company, including anticipated greater investments in enterprise software.

HP sent the invitations on Monday for its "March summit meeting" in San Francisco. It didn't provide details but the event is likely to be a forum for the recently appointed CEO to reveal his strategy for HP.

Apart from a quarterly earnings conference call late last year it will be Apotheker's first big public engagement since starting as HP CEO in November. The former SAP chief replaced Mark Hurd, who resigned from HP last August amid a scandal involving an HP marketing contractor.

Hurd did a lot to cut costs at HP and improve its financial position, but he didn't build a strategy that distinguishes HP from big rivals like IBM, said analyst James Staten of Forrester Research. "That's what they're expecting Leo to do for them," he said.

Given Apotheker's experience at SAP, Staten and other analysts expect his plans to involve bigger investments in software for the enterprise, including potentially some big acquisitions. Apotheker indicated as much on HP's earning call.

"The management software they have -- Mercury and Opsware and the legacy HP software -- needs to become a far more integrated and significant part of the business," Staten said.

Analysts say business intelligence may also be a target area. Right now, HP is like a "BI sandwich without the middle," Forrester analyst James Kobielus said recently. "They've got the hardware, they've got the services, but they don't have the software."

Apotheker will also expand HP's investment in storage and networking, two other profitable areas that are becoming increasingly strategic in corporate data centers, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources.

His plan may also include new duties for top HP executives including Ann Livermore, who runs HP's enterprise business, and executive vice presidents David Donatelli and Tom Hogan, the Journal reported.

HP didn't return a call Monday seeking comments for this article.

It's been a bumpy time for the company since Hurd's departure. As soon as it named Apother to be its new CEO, Oracle tried to make him appear in court in connection with its intellectual property lawsuit against his former employer, SAP.

Apotheker avoided a court appearance -- and faced no charges in the case -- but the events appeared to force him to keep a low profile while the Oracle-SAP case was ongoing. HP said at the time he was busy traveling the world getting to know its customers and employees.

"Hopefully, Ellison has finished chasing him around with a subpoena and HP can put the CEO follies behind them," said analyst Dan Olds of Gabriel Consulting.

HP also has a separate big event scheduled for Feb 9, also in San Francisco, where it's due to discuss its strategy for the webOS software it bought from Palm to use in smartphones, printers and other products.

(Chris Kanaracus contributed to this article.)

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James Niccolai

IDG News Service
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