The emancipation of H-P and the next great enterprise software age

October 27, 2014

It’s not about glamour – it’s about good old-fashioned ingenuity

The jury’s still out on H-P’s future following the company’s split, but the conventional wisdom seems to lean toward skepticism. For example, the company might be too late to be a cloud contender, and its personal computing star has fallen far from its zenith.

Here’s a contrarian view: the demise of the H-P we knew gives room for the rise of an enterprise software company that can replace the aging legacy ERPs or even fill gaps being left by most big SIs, consultants, and development outsourcers. Yes, H-P has been eclipsed in the cloud, but it has continued to be a source of engineering excellence because of the symbiosis between hardware and software within its walls.

That legacy of hardware-software codependence, some might argue, is a factor in H-P’s imminent demise: software-only companies that let someone else’s hardware do the heavy (and generic) lifting, are the ones that have emerged to dominate in the cloud age.

But the shift to cloud-based infrastructures hasn’t lessened the need for software development. Just the opposite, in fact: enterprise demand for great code has exploded as companies discover that even the best off-the-shelf solutions require customization and management that only experienced software engineers and developers can provide.

So, the good news for H-P is that the company has been making software for years, and the split of the company into two entities could give H-P Enterprise the ability to flourish, now that it will be out from under the shadow of the hardware it used to serve. H-P may not need reinvention to be successful in the cloud – but it will need to reinvest in developers and partnerships to bring its potentially great software to life.

Of course, H-P doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to software. An obvious example is the Autonomy acquisition, which required H-P to write down about $9 billion of an $11 billion purchase. Although the media coverage has highlighted a bit of he-said, she-said at play in the legal action that has followed, but this hiccup is all the more reason for H-P to get software right in the future. My guess is: the Autonomy misstep, combined with the new architecture of the company, has made H-P smarter and stronger when it comes to software strategy.

H-P was born in a garage. So was Apple. Many would argue that this is where the similarities end – and that Apple is among the “new school” tech giants forging ahead in the tech sector while companies like H-P fall ever further behind.

Perhaps that’s true, but I’m a big believer in biological destiny: scrappy innovation is in H-P’s DNA. Properly harnessed, those molecules can change the future of H-P. And possibly the industry.

Possibly.

 

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