HP boss Apotheker: It's good to be humongous

The CEO of the world's largest technology company takes the stage at the D9 conference.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
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HP CEO Leo Apotheker Asa Mathat/All Things Digital

At the D9 conference, Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker defended the tech giant's size compared with smaller companies (all tech companies are smaller) by highlighting HP's capability to provide integrated and complete solutions, especially to business customers.

Twenty-six percent of HP's business is in the consumer space. It's the right mix, Apotheker said, and he says the consumer research helps the company develop better commercial products. This was in part in reference to Eric Schmidt's claim, last night at this conference, that "IT is dying."

Interviewer Walt Mossberg asked Apotheker about HP's plans for WebOS on phones and tablets. Apotheker confirmed that the goal for HP is to build an Apple-like end-to-end system for consumers and commercial customers. However, Apotheker did say HP waited too long to roll out WebOS products, which has led to him "sheltering" the project from the HP bureaucracy. "We are getting ready to put WebOS out there for prime time."

There will be a new app catalog "with a whole new approach" when HP starts to push WebOS, first on tablets, and then on PCs. At first, he said, WebOS will sit on top of Windows--on all HP's computers. He didn't say WebOS would replace Windows, but he took pains to avoid ruling out the possibility: "It's user friendly to a whole new degree."

Still, "HP and Windows are strong partners," Apotheker said. But the PC industry is changing. The consumer PC business is in a valley, he said. The ARM CPUs may lead to needed innovation on PCs, Apotheker says. "The whole PC space and tablet space and personal device computing world will merge together and we'll see new form factors coming out."

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D9 complete coverage

WebOS will also appear on all HP printers over $100.

D9 conference attendees received a WebOS phone, the HP Veer, in their goodie bags.

So how does HP get developers to build for WebOS? "In the short term, it's about putting WebOS out there," Apotheker said. He thinks the tablet will show that WebOS "has gained some traction." The goal is to establish credibility, and it's early in the market, he said. "The market is wide open. Currently the market is iPad," Apotheker said, but he's not sure it has to stay that way.