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HP 's No. 2 exec speaks out

Internet World HP's director of computing, Rick Belluzzo, talks to NEWS.COM about the future of his company.

Internet World LOS ANGELES--Rick Belluzzo, who runs all of Hewlett-Packard's (HWP) $31 billion computer business, talked with NEWS.COM this week at the Internet World trade show.

HP is not only a huge PC player, but was this week recognized as one of a handful of blue chip companies in the technology sphere. The company was added to the Dow Jones industrial average yesterday, part of a group of four additions that account for the first changes to the Dow's make-up in six years.

Some HP watchers have it that Belluzzo will someday inherit the reins of this industry giant from current CEO Lew Platt. Today's discussion touched on the emerging role of smart cards in HP's business, Belluzzo's efforts to meld HP's big computer and PC operations, and his future at the company.

NEWS.COM: HP is integrating smart cards into its Praesidium security framework. I've heard that HP doesn't jump into a new area unless it's a $1 billion opportunity. Are smart cards that big?
Rick Belluzzo: First, I don't buy the billion-dollar business argument. For hardware, that's fine, but in services, software, and solutions, you can do less than a billion dollars and have a pretty nice business. We need to change that way of thinking.

We're excited about smart cards and the capabilities they provide. We look at the full breadth of our business--authentication, the printer business, so many applications, and we can't see [anything] in the enterprise environment that's as capable and functional, especially for security. There are a lot of infrastructure and standards issues, but we do not see other solutions for the problems.

Smart cards are both a business and an execution of a strategy. In our printer business, we are pushing to distribute and print with what we call mopiers, copies for the Internet. Someone could go to a printer, insert a smart card, and print their own documents.

Will you build smart card readers into the keyboards of all your Vectra PCs later this year?
No, we're not going to build readers into all Vectras, but we would provide them as an option.

How do you see the Internet fitting into your overall enterprise computing offerings?
Our philosophy is to Web-enable our infrastructure capabilities, and this is where OpenView will have an important role.

When you were promoted, HP combined two separate computer organizations. How is that going?
We still have a lot of work to do. We have had three pillars of our business: support, systems, and products. But they turned out to be more like silos between organizations, going straight up and down.

Here's a good example: Our Unix and Windows NT business historically have been kept apart, with different people talking to the same customers. Now, increasingly we talk to customers at the same time. When I talked to a customer this week, they feel it plays much better now. They appreciated it.

When you got the promotion, it put you in a position as heir-apparent to Lew Platt, HP's chairman, CEO, and president. Are you?
I have a huge job right now to try to raise HP's computer business to the next level. If I do that well, who knows? Lew Platt is still very much around.

What do you think about what's happening at Apple Computer, just down the road in Cupertino?
Whenever I think I have a tough job, I think of Gil Amelio. We'd like Apple to make it, but as a strategic direction and business model, they have a huge challenge. We have a deal to provide them printers, and I wish Gil luck. We've offered to help if we can.