HP's CEO Fiorina talks e-services
After a difficult period of restructuring that has seen Hewlett-Packard record the slowest year of growth in its history, the company says it's ready to move on. As a keynote speaker at Comdex Fall, HP CEO Carly Fiorina was out to change the stodgy image that many industry observers have of her company. As part of that effort, Fiorina announced the $US200 million rebranding exercise that, she believes, will push the reinvented Hewlett-Packard logo, `hp invent' to the forefront of Internet-related product and services brands. Fiorina also demonstrated a number of pervasive computing technologies that are under development in HP's Cool Town laboratory. In an interview with IDG, Fiorina outlined her strategic vision for HPIDG: When you peel back all the noise and hype, what are the major issues facing Hewlett-Packard?
Fiorina: We have to reconnect the people of HP to the fundamental spirit of invention that began with this company 60 years ago. Secondly, we have to get rid of some bad habits. Instead of being slow, we have to be fast. Instead of being indecisive, we have to be focused. We have to lead instead of follow. We have to be bold. That is really what I mean when I say, `We need to preserve the best and reinvent the rest.'
What is the best of HP?
We have chosen not only to embrace e-services, but to use that as a strategy to drive the entire business. What that really talks about is the fact that the economy is moving to a services world. We need to think about the intersection of the services, the appliances that enable those services, and the infrastructure that supports those services. HP is uniquely at the intersection in those three things, and we also play in the consumer and enterprise space. The issue is how we take that unique position, coupled with our inventive ability, and leverage it into the next millennium and the next chapter of the Internet.
What exactly are e-services?
E-services are services on the Web supported by a lot of infrastructure, some of which will be software, [and] enabled by PCs and appliances that will also have software in them. In fact, there's software at all of those levels. But there will be more assets available via the Web and different kinds of business models associated with those assets.
How does e-speak relate to e-services?
E-speak is a software technology that is a fundamental building block of the e-services world in that it enables different devices and different people to communicate with one another, and it enables dynamic brokering of different kinds of applications.
How does Hewlett-Packard see that vision taking shape?
Everything will be connected. That not only means microwaves, refrigerators, and cars, but people and places. We think there will be context-aware connections, person-aware connections, as well as things-and places-aware connections. One of the things we showed at Comdex was Cool Town, which is a lab we have at HP where we are showing person-aware, place-aware, context-aware connections and how all those things work together.
For the vision to succeed, HP will need a lot of software partners. But one of HP's problems is that it is viewed as being primarily a hardware vendor. How will you address that issue?
I think the perception does not synch with reality. Nobody knows that 15 years ago, the notion of pervasive computing began at HP.
In fact, the notion of a computing utility was pioneered here, and it spawned a whole set of decisions around open-systems standards. We are still the most open company in the industry and the one that has led more open standards initiatives than anyone else.
In the software space specifically, our OpenView software now manages 70 per cent of the networks out there. That's a huge asset that we're going to leverage. Our VirtualVault software is a de facto standard for commercial banks around the world. That's a big asset as we move into e-financial services around the world.
E-speak is another piece of technology that's quite unique. In fact, when I first came here, I didn't believe it was real. It turns out it is, and we're going to make it pervasive. What is true is that this company has been known more for its hardware and boxes. We have to spend more energy investing and nurturing our software capabilities.
Dell has emerged as a poster child for how to run a company in the age of electronic business. How is HP responding to that challenge?
HP does a lot of business over the Web today, and we're accelerating that work. Interestingly, what most people don't know is that Dell is going through channel partners. What people think about Dell is that everything they do is direct. That's not true.
They now do 30 per cent of their business through channel partners. In fact, I think what's happening is that the world is going full circle. The reality is that we will have direct over the Web, face-to-face, and through channel partners. So will Dell. We'll arrive at the same point, but we'll start from different points.
How is the printer business related to the overall strategy?
We believe printing and imaging services are a vital piece of e-services. E-publishing, for example, takes advantage of the fact that hard copy will be digitised. We are moving from a world of print and distribute to [one of] distribute and print. That means you take image-rich content, distribute it over the Net, and print it where you want with the image you want. When we talk to Internet companies, they understand the power of 130 million printers that can print on demand.
What's the best thing about HP?
The inventive capacity is awesome, the strategic vision is right, [and] we have the right assets. We need to move quickly because it's a fast world.