SAN FRANCISCO – In his first major press conference, Hewlett-Packard's new chief executive, Leo Apotheker, showed the qualities that earned him the title of "the Polar Bear" from his former colleagues at SAP. He was by turns warm, terse and a bit icy.
Most of the questions revolved around the news HP will roll out its own public cloud service, pre-load WebOS on its PCs side-by-side with Windows and ship a family of high-end systems that integrate business analytics software from Vertica Systems, a company it is acquiring. Apotheker was bullish on the company's new plans and potential, but tight lipped on topics.
For example, Apotheker said he will shift the focus of his predecessor Mark Hurd on cost cutting to invest more in technology. However he declined to provide numbers.
"R&D is not just measured in dollars, it's about effectiveness as well and the entire R&D process—and we need to get a little bit better in that," he said. "What you have seen today with Vertica shows HP has the capability for team work--we can make things happen really quickly, and you will see much more of this in the future," he said.
HP's R&D expenditures—now at about 2.5 percent of sales—will grow faster than sales and be funded based on increases in gross margins, said HP's chief financial officer, on hand for the event.
"From a R&D perspective, the messages we have received from Leo have been very positive, and hopeful of a better future," said one senior HP engineer who asked not to be named.
"He certainly has shown that he values the employees of this company--a trait that has been absent for the last two CEOs," the engineer added. "He understands that innovation needs to be fostered from within from his employee pool, that acquisitions can help you out in the short term, but long term sustainable growth needs to be fostered from within," he said.
In the press Q&A, Apotheker deflected a question from one reporter about any future changes in the company's management or structure. "This is an event about strategy," he said.
In a Q&A with financial analysts, he defended as significant HP's forecast to grow the company's $127 billion revenues about five percent in the coming year. "Even if we just grow by single digits we have to add several billion dollars in revenue, effectively creating a new Fortune 500 company," he said.