Analysis: Chinese Media Grill HP Execs On Tablets, Ultrabooks10:05 AM EST Fri. May. 11, 2012
Chinese reporters did not hold back at Hewlett-Packard's Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai this week, peppering CEO Meg Whitman and other executives with pointed questions about the company's recent missteps.
In a Q&A Thursday at the event, a local reporter asked Whitman, in English, about the difficulties of working with HP's board of directors, noting that the board has seen more than its share of dysfunction in recent years. "What is the appropriate way to work with the HP board?" the reporter said.
Whitman, plenty familiar with this line of questioning after eight months at the helm of HP, did not bat an eye.
"We have a saying at HP: We cannot change the past, but we can change the future," Whitman responded. "We are focused on the future with what I think is a very good board, with many new members in the last year. This board is deeply engaged, and we are all about plotting a better future for HP."
HP's mobility strategy was another popular topic at the event. Several Chinese reporters asked Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Printing and Personal Systems division, why HP does not have a tablet to counter Apple's iPad, and why the launch event in Shanghai did not include Windows 8 tablets.
Bradley said only that HP will sell Windows 8 tablets for consumers and business users and that the latter will include enterprise-grade security and manageability.
"I'm very comfortable with where we're going in tablets," Bradley said. "Our stated tablet strategy is around Microsoft and bringing Windows 8 tablets to market. … That's not to say that [the Microsoft partnership] is forever -- markets evolve."
In a separate session about HP's all-in-one PCs, a Chinese media member asked Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager of HP's Commercial Business Solutions business unit, if HP has any plans to integrate webOS with its touch-enabled PCs.
"I would say the answer, at this point, would be no," Zafarana said.
This actually isn't such a far-fetched question: HP executives spent much of last year talking about loading webOS onto Windows PCs, as well as printers, home appliances and other connected devices, but that talk dissipated after HP dirt-napped the TouchPad.
NEXT: Too Much Like Apple's MacBook Air?
In another memorable episode from the event, HP was called out for the resemblance between its Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook and Apple's Macbook Air. In a Q&A, a Chinese reporter asked Stacy Wolff, HP's industrial design chief, if he's expecting to be sued by Apple for copying the Macbook Air design.
Wolff denied this assertion and said any similarities between the two products exist only because of the design limitations PC makers face in building Ultrabooks, which have strict Intel-imposed size and thickness requirements.
The Envy 14 Spectre and Macbook Air are similar in color, but that is not an intellectual property issue, Wolff said.
"I'm sure the guys in Cupertino would love to say they own silver, but they don't," he said with a wry grin. "In no way would HP try to mimic another company."