Whitman's Innovation Offensive Hits Home With HP Discover Attendees

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman Tuesday received a rousing round of applause from thousands of Discover conference attendees when she proclaimed that HP had turned a corner and was back on stable ground with a reignited innovation engine and a clear vision for the future.

"I can tell you with pride that HP has turned the corner, we are on a clear path and have done the hard things to keep us in the lead. The company is back on stable footing," said Whitman, pausing briefly to thank the estimated 9,000 attendees for the unexpected show of support during her keynote address. "We have reestablished relationships with our most important constituents: our employees, our investors, but most importantly, you, our customers. We have made it easier for you to do business with us. We have reignited the innovation engine and we are executing a clear and compelling strategy that will take HP into the future."

[Related: HP Unleashes 12 New Enterprise Products At HP Discover ]

It was a telling moment given just how far Whitman has come in shoring up HP's once-battered balance sheet and driving a new generation of innovative products that were on full display at this year's Discover show including a new Apollo high-performance computer, a breakthrough all-flash HP 3Par StoreServ 7450 storage array priced at less than $2 per Gbyte, and a new Helion Global Network for cloud services.

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"HP's turnaround remains firmly on track," said Whitman, noting that HP delivered earnings-per-share at the high end of guidance for the most recent quarter, generating $3 billion in cash flow from operations and net cash of $2.7 billion. She also acknowledged HP plans to layoff an additional 16,000 employees as a necessary step to eliminate bureaucracy and get closer to customers.

"These changes will also help our ability to innovate, to read a threat and out maneuver, to bring the resources of a battleship while moving like a speed boat,"she said. "We are making these changes to equip this company for the future and to be the best technology partner on earth for you."

NEXT:Whitman Pays Tribute To HP's Legendary Founders

Whitman will celebrate her third anniversary as CEO in September in a year that HP itself is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Whitman embraced the 75th anniversary of the founding of the company with a Discover tribute to HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, who she credited with providing the innovation DNA that is still at the heart of HP.

The two legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneurs started HP in a Palo Alto, Calif. garage with just $538 in capital. One of the company's first customers (and still an HP customer today) was Walt Disney Studios which purchased eight audio oscillators to enhance the audio quality in theaters playing the film "Fantasia."

"That first partnership between HP and Disney created a new category in technology and a new standard in animated film that was cutting edge technology at the time,"said Whitman. "And that is what we have been doing for 75 years: We create new categories. We innovate and we set new benchmarks."

Whitman said that three years ago when she started the HP turnaround she identified key challenges as getting closer to customers and partners, uniting HP employees with a vision they could believe in, creating new revenue streams and new ways of doing business and driving innovation. "These challenges are not unique to HP," she said. "I would bet they are among your CEO's top priorities as well. Every company that wants to compete and stay in the game has to do these things."

Solution providers attending HP Discover said they see a dramatic increase in product innovation combined with more effective channel engagement under Whitman.

Rich Baldwin, chief strategy officer of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based Platinum HP solution provider partner, said he sees HP out-innovating competitors with offerings like the $2 per Gbyte 3Par all-flash array, Apollo, Vertica and new Atalla security solutions. "These are record-breaking innovations," said Baldwin. "They are all killer technologies. These are way beyond the competition. HP is innovating, making changes, taking risks and they are producing results."

Nth Generation's HP sales are up about 20 percent in the first half of this year, said Baldwin. "That is going to accelerate with some of the announcements here at Discover like the 3Par all-flash array," he said. In fact, he said, Nth Generation is already competing aggressively against EMC VMAX with the all-flash array.

Majdi "Mike" Daher, CEO of Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Wash., No. 91 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list, said he sees a stronger product portfolio and channel engagement under Whitman.

"There is a tremendous excitement and revitalization of the partnership," he said. "The product portfolio is strong. The channel and sales teams are engaging in the right way. The biggest change in the HP culture right now is we are focusing on the customer, partnering and collaborating to make the customer more successful. There is clarity and that is going to translate into increased sales."