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HP taps VC to run software unit

Whitman asks ex-Microsoftie to assume the COO position

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Ex-Microsoftie Bill Veghte was just getting comfortable in his dual roles as chief strategy officer and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's software business, and was just given the job of running HP's Autonomy big data business after last week's restructuring and the departure of Autonomy founder Mike Lynch.

And today, Veghte was elevated to the position of chief operating officer and HP is bringing in an outsider from venture capitalist Silver Lake Partners to run HP Software.

The new executive vice president in charge of HP Software is none other than George Kadifa, an operating partner at Silver Lake as well as a venture partner at Arch Venture Partners. Kadifa has three decades of experience in the IT racket, and has a BS in electrical engineering from American University in Beirut, an MSEE from the California Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Kadifa was a software development manager at Xerox, a management consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and a senior vice president in charge of the industrial sector at Oracle. He was CEO at application hosting company Corio when it was founded in 1999 and made his way to IBM when Big Blue bought Corio, which had lost a staggering amount of money up to that point, in 2006 for $182m.

Kadifa managed IBM's application-on-demand services and was a vice president in its Global Technology Services unit until he joined both Silver Lake and Arch in 2007. Kadifa was part of the Silver Lake team that managed the 24 largest companies in its large-cap portfolio.

"George brings a wealth of experience gained at traditional software companies, service providers, and startups," explained HP CEO Meg Whitman in a statement announcing the appointments. "His ability to manage multiple business models will prove extremely valuable to HP as we extend our software offerings in cloud, information and security.”

Kadifa is now a member of the HP executive council, the ruling body that advises Whitman on what to do and not to do. Veghte is also a member of this council, and will "help further accelerate the execution of the company's strategy by working across HP to drive innovation and customer satisfaction," according to the statement. "With Bill's additional responsibilities, I am confident we can accelerate progress across our portfolio of assets," Whitman added.

It sounds a bit like Veghte went from thinking up strategy and running a software business to being the implementer of a restructuring of HP that includes 27,000 layoffs over the next two and a half years. This could make Veghte a hero and the next in line to run HP or a fall guy if this doesn't work out.

Veghte, who spent two decades at Microsoft, joined HP back in May 2010. Before coming to HP, Veghte was senior vice president in charge of Microsoft's $15bn Windows and Windows Live Division, the crown jewels at Microsoft, and as soon as Windows 7 was out the door, Microsoft was saying Veghte was exploring other options.

Veghte was part of a Microsoft reorganization where Steven Sinofsky was named president of the Windows group and was supposed to get another leadership role at Microsoft at a later date – something that never happened and is the reason why Veghte came to HP.

Veghte is no slouch in the software department, with Windows 98, Windows Server, and Office being his babies. It would seem that HP would do better to keep Veghte running the software biz, but maybe HP is positioning Veghte as the next in line to run the company, just in case?

Both Kadifa and Veghte report directly to Whitman.

In a separate development, HP has appointed Jan Zadak to be president of Enterprise Services in the EMEA region, effective immediately. Zadak was appointed to the top sales job for the Enterprise Business unit at HP back in April 2011, when Leo Apotheker was CEO and Tom Hogan decided to leave.

Zadak had previously run HP's EMEA unit and came up through the Compaq side of HP in various management positions. Zadak reports to John Visentin, executive vice president and general manager of HP's Enterprise Services, who was appointed to that job during Apotheker's August 2011 restructuring – when HP also decided to shell out $10.4bn to buy Autonomy. ®

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