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Apotheker was HP's sole CEO choice

Time for HP to merge with SAP and make this interesting

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Leo Apotheker, the ex-SAP CEO and the new president and chief executive officer of IT giant Hewlett-Packard who was appointed to those jobs yesterday, gave his first briefing this morning with members of the HP board. If you were expecting a lot of insight into the CEO search, the selection process, and Apotheker's plans for HP, you will no doubt be disappointed.

Cathie Lesjak, HP's chief financial officer and interim CEO since Mark Hurd was asked to leave the company on August 6 after some fudged expenses and a looming sexual harassment lawsuit, was audibly relieved at not being the CEO any more. She said that it had been an "extraordinary couple of months" with Hurd's departures and acquisitions, and that her family will be pleased that she is merely the CFO at HP once again.

Robert Ryan, an HP board member who used to be the CFO at Medtronic, said that the board unanimously agreed that Apotheker was "the right executive" to lead HP because he was a "strategic thinker with a passion for technology," he had experience running a global IT giant, he had operational discipline, and most importantly because Apotheker understood that HP's employees were its greatest assets. (That comment is a real groaner, and will go over like a lead balloon, turd in a punchbowl, a fart in church - pick your metaphor - to the HPers who expect the axe to come swinging at their heads as HP engages in its relentless pursuit of cost cutting to drive profits.)

"He is the only one we offered the job to," Ryan added and said that there were six candidates who were seriously considered after an extensive look outside and inside the company.

Apotheker opened up his comments in the call by saying that "the decision to accept the position was an easy one". Particularly since SAP did not extend his contract to be CEO back in February and he basically did not have a job, except as a director at a GT Nexus, a provider of global trading and logistics software.

The choice of Apotheker is a perplexing one, as El Reg explained here and then further in this comment. The Wall Street analysts on the call were all deferential, as if the choice of Apotheker was obvious and because they can't afford to tick off the new top dog at the world's largest IT company.

Like everyone else this morning, the analysts wanted to know if Apotheker's appointment meant that HP was going to take a more aggressive stance in the software space. Apotheker almost answered the question, but not quite. So don't start those rumors about HP getting its revenge on Oracle and Apotheker getting the last laugh at SAP by having HP acquire SAP and bring the fight right to Oracle - and perhaps leaving IBM in the dust - quite yet.

"HP as a company has great talent and is grounded in the hardware business," Apotheker explained. "I bring to the company an expertise in software," he said, stating the obvious. And adding quickly that HP had a fine software business of its own and that he also had experience in delivering "high value services". Apotheker also said that he was a global citizen and that being able to speak a few different languages also helps.

When people kept pressing about Apotheker's thoughts concerning Oracle's strategy of building complete, integrated hardware-software stacks with highly tuned software, he said he would not speak of Oracle's strategy and said it was best to ask Oracle spokespeople about that. Which is two jokes, if you have to deal with Oracle's public relations. First, Oracle doesn't answer questions, so the exercise is almost always pointless. And second, if Oracle is right, then HP cannot, as Apotheker claimed, play in every part of the stack. It does not own middleware, databases, and applications - it can only wait for others, like Oracle, to deliver them and do its best to tune them after the fact. Oracle can tune its hardware and software together, which means if Oracle is right about "hardware-software-complete" then HP is not only wrong, it is totally screwed.

Unless, of course, HP merges with SAP and tunes up its own stacks. (Gentlemen, start your rumors...)

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, HP said that it was paying Apotheker an annual salary of $1.2m, with a bonus ranging between 200 and 500 per cent of this should specific performance goals for HP be met. HP is also kicking in $2.9m in relocation costs and another $1.7m because Apotheker had to forfeit some monies and benefits that were due him to take the new job, presumably from SAP and GT Nexus combined but HP did not say.

For now, Apotheker said he would be traveling the world, talking to HPers and listening to their input and concerns, as well as meeting with HP customers. As for more insight into his plans for HP, we'll have to wait. ®

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