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Inside HP's Building 20 at the company's Palo Alto campus in the heart of Silicon Valley, there is a photo of company founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. It's not the shot of two young entrepreneurs working out of the legendary garage where they started the company in 1939. It is a photo of them later in life as elder statesmen of a technology giant. With all of the cultural changes that HP has undergone, it is remarkable that the photo still hangs there.
More From CRN's Apotheker Coverage
It is an image that new HP President and CEO Leo Apotheker must find inspirational given his drive to restore what he has called HP's "soul." In an exclusive interview with CRN earlier this month, we asked him what he hopes his legacy will be at HP. His answer: "I really have the desire to make sure that HP is the world's best company. As I said to the senior leadership team the other day, be the kind of company where you would want your children to work."
Apotheker, a warm and charming German with a passion for technology, is aiming to bring a company that has experienced cultural whiplash from warp-speed IT industry shifts, chainsaw cost-cutting and three major CEO changes in a dozen years back to its roots as a technology innovator.
The new HP leader has made a point of meeting with hundreds of HP customers, employees and partners all over the world, listening closely to their opinions of what's right and what's wrong with HP. Not long after taking the helm, he was spotted in the company cafeteria chatting with a group of engineers.
HP insiders say engineers and employees are excited by Apotheker's vision of the future and how HP will play in a cloud software, services and connected devices world. He has brought a strategic vision that for the first time could unite the charged-up world of handheld consumer devices with complex Fortune 500 data centers. What's impressive, say insiders, is how quickly Apotheker has come up with a clear, compelling strategy to bring together all of HP. If there is another CEO that could have made this kind of impact so quickly, we can't think of one.
It is one of those beautiful sunny California days when we get to meet Apotheker in his second-floor office. Sporting a blue shirt and red tie but sans suit jacket, he greets us warmly, asking if we would like something to drink. His office has a large desk at one end with a bookcase behind it and a conference room table at the other. He says that the next time he returns to Paris he will bring back "some stuff with me so I can personalize my office a little bit." There is one telling personal memento that hangs on his wall, though--a plaque he received from the HP Americas Team when he took the job. It reads: "Americas Team Welcomes Leo Apotheker. One Team. One Way. One Mission." Apotheker was clearly touched by the gesture. "It felt really good," he said. "They are lovely people."
"I have to say," he continued, "I have rarely met such a crowd of motivated, smart, committed people. It is a pleasure working here."
Four months into the job, Apotheker is settling into Silicon Valley. He has bought a home and recently got his California driver's license, which required him to take both a written and a driving test. "Two tests," he quipped. "And a behind-the-wheel one because apparently if you don't live in California you don't know how to drive." Apotheker's sense of humor will win you over if you spend any time with him.
If Apotheker is feeling the pressure of getting his arms around a company that remains an icon of American capitalism with $126 billion in annual sales, he doesn't show it. He is as relaxed and personable as any CEO we have ever met. He answers the first question with a simple: "First of all, thank you for the opportunity." And then goes on to talk about his meetings with partners, driving home at every turn "how important the channel business is and how important the channel business will remain for HP."
"The first message I wanted to convey to them and I want to convey to you as well is that for HP the channel partners are a strategic asset, and we will do whatever we need to do to make sure they have a great future with HP."
In his 45-minute sit-down with CRN, Apotheker stressed again and again that he is firmly committed to HP's channel partners and he sees a big role for them in the cloud-connected devices era. "My channel vision is to turn the partners into a proactive force that innovates business models, go-to-market models, service models, where we all share the overriding objective to make the channel and HP truly delight our customers," said the 20-year-plus IT veteran.
Solution providers who have met with Apotheker said they see their HP sales and profit growth continuing under his leadership. What's more, they are making investments to expand their HP product portfolio with more HP software after listening first-hand to Apotheker's views on the future of information technology. Now his challenge is to win over the rest of HP's partners, starting with the thousands of solution providers he is scheduled to address this week at HP's Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas. A number of those partners, by the way, were fans of his predecessor, former CEO Mark Hurd, and are looking for Apotheker to show his channel colors.
Solution providers who make the trek to the desert to hear him live are likely to be pleasantly surprised. After speaking with Apotheker, his lieutenants and solution provider partners who have met with him, here are 10 things you didn't know about HP's dynamic new CEO.