Q&A: HP's Bradley Talks Tablet, Apple, Microsoft

Todd Bradley

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of Hewlett-Packard's Printing and Personal Systems group, a $65 billion business, spoke with CRN Vice President and Editorial Director Kelley Damore and Editor News Steven Burke about the company's new mobility division and the computer giant's first foray into the tablet market since it killed its Touchpad tablet product line in 2011. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Talk about the new Mobility Global Business unit and what it means to solution providers.

I think what it means is we have made an enormous amount of progress in our product line. Clearly mobility and connectivity are critical areas of growth for HP and for all of our partners. And, Alberto [Torres, senior vice president of the new mobility unit] brings a very, very significant set of experiences to help us grow this side of our business. He ran [Nokia] MeeGo [mobile phone operating system] and [luxury phone maker] Vertu. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford.

He [Torres] helped me when I was at Palm 10 years ago. He knows mobility exceptionally well. It was a great chance to upgrade the team, great chance to bring additional focus on this piece of our business. At the same time as we have integrated PPS, we have got a great set of products. So I think it is a natural focus on growth for us.

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[Related: CRN Exclusive: HP Ready To Roll Out Business Tablet ]

Does this mean HP is recommitting to be a leader in smartphones and tablets? Is that the message?

So, it is not a message around product specifically. Clearly, tablets with our channel partners are hyper-important. We are going to do the biggest seed program [putting tablets in the hands of HP partners] we have ever done with partners here in a couple of weeks. The tablet focus is certainly on the channel, mobility and frankly from a vertical [business] standpoint.

We have been doing partner roundtables all over the country and have gotten a lot of feedback from customers telling us to demystify the products a little bit, give us some better insight. So in October and November we are spotlighting our entire PPS product line with partners in a 20 city tour. We are inviting partners and asking them to bring their customers to really show them not just tablets, which everyone is super-interested in, but also the new line of printers that we have coming out.

What is your message to channel in terms of your go to market versus some of the other players?

It's all in with the channel. We were with a whole group of partners last night for dinner. We talked about [giving them] seed products for them to understand the tablet as well as seed products for their customers.

NEXT: A "Phenomenal" Tablet Product That Is Expandable Is HP committed to being number one in tablets?

First off we have built a phenomenal tablet product that is expandable and frankly its gives us the ability to think of further vertical uses for these tablets. It is the only tablet on the market that is serviceable. So, you can open it from a service perspective.

Our objectives around share are always the result of doing things exceptionally well: great products, great support, great value. And, I think share is a result of doing those things.

So, I think our partners understand that. Our partners understand the value we are going to bring into the marketplace, and they are psyched up to go [make it happen].

We are not going to expend any time or minimal time, if any time, on the consumer side of this right now.

What are the differentiators of your tablet versus the Apple iPad?

I think the big thing is serviceability: clearly, Windows 8 and the security improvements that it is going to provide to customers [and] the easy access to the application world that they work in in the enterprise. So I think our focus on building on our heritage of providing great products to the enterprise is what this is all about.

Talk about the importance for the channel to have a business product for the channel. These guys are dying out there [to get a business focused tablet].

I totally agree. I think not only is the product important but our willingness to work aggressively with the channel, unlike most of our competitors, to sell this product is important.

HP's channel legacy is a huge differentiator versus Apple. Talk about how important that is and what you are doing as a channel advocate with the seeding and channel program to make sure that partners are going to be able to make margin and develop solutions around an HP tablet.

I think between the product that we have developed, the serviceability of it, the ability for partners to make money with us on this tablet is just significant. So, compared to any of the other people in the marketplace, no one has a better focus on the enterprise than HP. The combination of an HP Windows 8 tablet gives enterprises the security that they want for their behind-the-firewall applications. Behind the firewall is critical information that we all want safe and secure from a tablet perspective.

Talk about the difference between your tablet and Microsoft Surface.

First and foremost, we are focused on selling our product through the channel. I think the message from Microsoft was if you want to sell Surface, go to a store and buy one. Why don't we start with the fundamentals [like selling the product through the channel]?

Talk about the channel sales offensive and the seeding you are doing to put product into the hands of partners.

Obviously, we are kind of re-establishing the category after the Aug.18, 2011, changes that were made. So, I don't know if we are overcompensating or just re-evaluating how we market and go to market with new products. So, you are seeing very large seed programs [to get the Tablets in the hands of partners], because in essence it will be a driven for business product.

NEXT: Working With Partners To Drive Tablet Sales The TouchPad was so retail focused. Did you learn a lot from that and as a result say: Look we are not going to go the consumer route. We are going to lead with our strength, with our sales force and the business market where we have built a strong, loyal channel?

I think a lot of this has to do with our ability to work with the channel to drive penetration of these products. I think the benefit we get from a well-educated channel sales force is pretty significant.

I am not going to go into any of the retail stuff. I mean you can see us in some of the big outlet superstores, but that is probably the extent of it.

In your recent meetings with partners, was there anything that they gave you in terms of feedback that surprised you?

First, I talk to our partners all the time. If there was something that was surprising, they would call me. I wouldn't say surprising. I really responded, and we responded aggressively to this need to seed products early, which is why we are doing the road show.

I think we are adaptive, and we learn as a company. I think these things are really important changes that we need to make.

A lot of partners are still demoralized and haven't recovered from the missteps under former CEO Leo Apotheker. Talk about that.

We are spending a lot of time with people to regain their confidence and show our commitment. I think our entire product lineup -- from printers to workstations to PCs to tablets -- as we get into the fall is going to show how committed we are to the space, how committed HP is to our business, and, yeah, I think there is still some work we need to do to regain their confidence. That is why we are charging down this path. We have never done anything like this. This is a pretty significant commitment for us to take our entire product lineup, just the logistics of taking our entire product lineup to 20 cities is significant.

As someone who was at Palm and knows mobility better than anybody, how important is this business tablet to the future of HP?

First off, I think people are understanding what the usage models are. And, I think tablets and notebooks all have critical places in the enterprise and small business environment. I think it is obviously important, obviously critical as it relates to providing that suite of products that are important to our customers. But be it tablet or Convertible or some of next generation of products -- All In Ones -- they are all important.

With the merger of the Personal Systems and Printing businesses, what is the opportunity for partners?

I think the biggest growth is coming out of the similarity of the programs and people that we have brought to this effort. Between [Scott] Dunsire [vice president and general manager of PPS U.S. channel sales] and [Mike] Parrottino [vice president, US SMB channel sales] we have got two of the best channel leaders in the country. So, we have got very specific skills from that perspective and a very specific focus. I think the similarity in programs and the simplicity and partners' ability to [more simply] deal with us [going forward] is going to be a big deal.

NEXT: Are Tablets Eating Into Notebook Sales? Are tablet sales eating into notebook sales?

Clearly, there is a suite of products that are all competing for same share of wallet, and we are in a very, very tight economy.

A lot of partners know you and feel like you are an advocate [for them]. With all of the controversy of the [former HP CEO Leo] Apotheker era, there was some question about whether you would stay with the company. How do you feel now, and what is your commitment to partners?

I think, to be frank, my actions speak louder than whatever words you are going to print. The products and programs, the things we are doing and I am doing to lead this business and to work with our partners all over the world to grow it speaks for itself.

It seems like you have done more work than ever before with the channel on this specific tablet product than anything I have ever heard of in terms of getting partners ready for the launch. Is that true?

Not since I have been here.

Is Windows 8 going to be that big a differentiator for HP?

Microsoft is going to put a ton of advertising behind this, which is good for us and good for the industry overall. I am just starting to use it now. It brings a lot of innovation into the PC space. I think it is going to create a lot of excitement. I think it is going to be much more of a consumer SMB play.

There are not a lot of enterprises ready to convert. I am sure some will over time. Enterprises seem to do this on their own productivity schedules as opposed to launch dates.

What did you think of Windows 8 as a tablet operating system? Are your engineers happy with it?

They are very happy with it from a tablet perspective. That is why it is going to be such an important launch for us.

Look, we have got all these things converging at the same time, so our ability to communicate clearly and crisply with our partners is huge. From a competitive standpoint, we are showing a bigger commitment [to them] than any [vendor].

When you started at HP, the PC business was a mess. And, you put the focus on products and making HP cool again. You built that up, and now it seems like things got blown up. Do you view this as back to the future? What is the last chapter?

We are a long way from writing the last chapter. I think the next chapter, not just around mobility, is clearly going to again be defined by phenomenal products that are connected. A phenomenal focus on both product and business innovation to make sure we can get these products into the marketplace. Don't forget this is the only serviceable tablet there is. It is serviceable and expandable. It allows partners to really focus on very specific verticals and vertical customers.