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‘HP is still innovative,’ claims CEO Meg Whitman

R&D spend is going to "dramatically" increase as HP looks to tackle tech megatrends

By Cbr Rolling Blog

HP innovation

HP CEO Meg Whitman has admitted that the recent boardroom strife at the company has been "tough" but rejected suggestions the Silicon Valley stalwart has lost its way when it comes to innovation.

Speaking today at an HP Software event in London Whitman also said the company is pinning its hopes on three megatrends: cloud computing, security and information optimisation.

Whitman replaced the hapless Leo Apotheker in September 2011 following his disastrous 11-month reign. Apotheker attempted to jettison HP’s low-margin PC division and also killed off its TouchPad tablet range and its WebOS operating system, acquired as part of its $1.2bn deal for Palm.

His efforts were an attempt to refocus the company as a software and services provider, much like IBM and successfully done a few years previously.

He also acquired UK information management software company Autonomy.

The moves were not popular with HP shareholders. During Apotheker’s reign shares in HP dropped by 40%. Apotheker’s run as CEO followed that of Mark Hurd, who was sacked by the board following an expenses scandal.

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Hurd’s strict regime of cost cutting and acquisition-based growth saw the company grow significantly during his time there, but resulted in accusations that innovation was no longer what HP was about.

Today as she spoke in London, Whitman acknowledged that boardroom issues had negatively impacted HP but added that she wanted to return the company to its innovative roots.

"Drama in the boardroom can be tough for customers, for workers, for everyone involved with a company," she said, adding that despite the tough start she had "fallen in love" with HP.

"Innovation is alive and well at HP," she added. "We spent $3.2bn dollars on R&D in 2011, up from $2.9bn the year before. It is my objective to dramatically increase that over the next few years. We are certainly not falling behind in innovation, but perhaps we don’t market it very well."

Whitman, former CEO of online auction site eBay, also outlined what HP thinks are the three biggest trends shaking the tech world at the moment. "There is a new generation of technology taking charge in the enterprise: cloud computing, security and information optimisation," she said. "It is an interesting time with huge changes that don’t come along very often."

The changes happening at the moment echo the shift from mainframes to client servers and from there to Web 1.0 and on to Web 2.0, Whitman added, and said it was "critical" that companies like HP are able to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

HP has grown its security operations considerably over the last few years by acquiring the likes of Fortify and ArcSight.

Its information management division has been boosted by the acquisitions of Autonomy and Vertica, a real-time analytics company.


Further reading:

The $10bn man: The strange saga of Mark Hurd, HP and Oracle

Apotheker says HP needs to get ideas from lab to market faster

HP confirms $10bn Autonomy deal; also signals end of TouchPad tablet and webOS mobile platform

HP acquisition represents a "sad day" for Autonomy

The ousting of Leo Apotheker: the HP back story

HP to retain PC division

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