Leadership, In This Industry?


Leo Apotheker, HP's CEO of just a few months stepped into the spotlight recently in an interview with CRN and in a separate presentation to investors where he began to set forth what the future of HP will look like.

Apotheker took the technology vision road with investors in a 40-minute speech and dove into channel dynamics and business models in his one-hour interview with CRN.

He clearly sees a future driven by cloud and mobility and very different business models that revolve around service--a future that is solution service-oriented and very different than the one currently driven by product development and delivery--something we at Everything Channel have been pushing the channel to adopt for more than a decade, so we clearly agree.

But what interests me most about the Apotheker coming-out party is its contrast and potential.

First the contrast. Former CEO Mark Hurd was more about cost-cutting and efficiency than driving technology innovation. In his defense, it's perhaps what was necessary for the time, but Hurd missed an opportunity to be more than a CEO focused on the immediacy of the job and by doing so passed on an ability to push the market in HP's favor.

As the CEO of the largest computing company in the world, there are some advantages that come along with the position.

I'm not taking anything away from any other CEO in the business, but when the leader of a $130 billion company makes a comment on where the market is headed it carries more weight than when a player a quarter of that size makes a statement.

This industry has largely lost many of its dynamic visionaries as the market has matured. The newly minted entrepreneur billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sergey Brin of Google are smart and have built amazing companies, but they are not driving the public discussion.

Bill Gates was a master at it. Even if Microsoft was late to the game, Gates could steer the discussion his way and the market would react and often wait for Redmond's answer.

Cisco became a dominant force in its category because John Chambers would see opportunity in the market that no one else did. He still carries enormous weight, but Cisco's size is a fraction of HP's.

Certainly Steve Jobs still fits the visionary market leadership role, but Apple's lineup is focused on consumer electronics.

Apotheker holds the reins to a company that one could argue is more important to the channel than any other player. The size and importance of the company give him a power that he certainly didn't hold when he ran SAP.

He made a statement in his CRN interview that shows he's aware his channel partners can influence customers. "They should sell what customers want to buy. Now on that continuum you can find various shades of gray and various gradations of what people really want to buy, and that is up to each particular channel partner, what their strengths are and what they really want to do."

In the end, the new CEO of HP has the ability to steer his channel partners in a particular direction. They, in turn, have enormous influence over the customer base. Apotheker can also steer the discussion around business models and technology.

That's a very powerful position to be in and leveraged properly could be very interesting to watch.

BackTalk: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of Everything Channel. You can contact him via e-mail at robert.faletra@ec.ubm.com.