|HP CEO Leo Apotheker rolled out his roadmap for the company on Monday.|
PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- After weeks of buildup, HP ( HPQ - Get Report) CEO Leo Apotheker finally unveiled his long-term company strategy Monday, although the event in San Francisco raised as many questions as it provided answers. "So Mundane," remarked one commenter on TheStreet's live blog of the event, clearly unimpressed by Apotheker's plans to boost HP's cloud and connectivity businesses. "Wow, what a let down," commented another. "Zzzzzzz....." summed up the mood of many of those following the event.
Nobody, of course, thinks that Apotheker has an easy job. The former SAP ( SAP) chief succeeds Mark Hurd in the HP hot-seat, a man whose cost-cutting was lauded on Wall Street but earned enemies amongst the company's rank and file. Apotheker is now in the unenviable position of wooing wary investors while inspiring a workforce reeling from years of layoffs. If the new CEO is to believed, then HP's future lies in the clouds, where it can capitalize on growing enterprise and consumer demand for Internet-based services. Heavy on buzzwords, Apotheker's keynote on Monday outlined HP's ambitious plan to crack the this market, something easier said than done. Like a supertanker attempting a U-turn, there is a feeling that HP may have under-estimated the scale of its cloud challenge. Goldman Sachs, for example, warns that the company's metamorphosis could prove to be both expensive and detrimental to margins. HP is also up against heavily-entrenched players such as Amazon ( AMZN - Get Report) in the cloud market, not to mention long-standing rivals IBM ( IBM - Get Report) and Oracle ( ORCL) who have both been making a song and dance about the technology for the last few years. Clearly, the tech bellwether has its work cut out, which may explain why Apotheker did not provide investors with any specific cloud revenue numbers on Monday. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, in contrast, recently predicted that his firm will generate $7 billion in cloud revenue by 2015. There had also been speculation prior to the event that Apotheker would lay the foundations for a major software overhaul. Software accounts for just 2% of HP's revenue, compared to 25% over at Big Blue, which began restructuring this part of its business back in the nineties.
HP CFO Cathie Lesjak, who joined Apotheker on stage at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, promised that the company will have a larger software presence moving forward, but there was no mention of internal restructuring to support this effort. HP, of course, has a big ace in its software pack; the acclaimed WebOS operating system it acquired as part of its Palm acquisition. Surprisingly, though, WebOS seemed to play second fiddle to cloud during Apotheker's presentation, although the CEO did promise that the OS will be extended to PCs and even printers. In our gadget-obsessed era, WebOS is one of the most potent weapons in HP's armory, and Apotheker said that the tech giant could potentially sell 100 million devices a year running WebOS. Given HP's enterprise and consumer reach this is a distinct possibility, although the firm needs to seriously ramp up its efforts against the likes of Apple ( APPL) , Motorola ( MOT) and Nokia ( NOK) in the tablet and smartphone markets to help make this happen. Apotheker clearly has a vision for HP, although investors will be looking forward to see him add more flesh to the bones of his strategy. --Written by James Rogers in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.