updated 06:55 pm EDT, Wed March 21, 2012
Apple a core focus of HP shareholder meeting
HP's 2012 shareholder meeting on Wednesday saw Apple become a centerpiece of its conversation. During the question and answer session, most questions centered around why HP was not more like its fellow Southern Bay Area counterpart, which had a tenfold larger market worth even though it spent less on research and development. When asked if she had a vision like the late Steve Jobs, CEO Meg Whitman argued that the company had to place more bets on "disruptive" innovation like Apple, creating categories or fundamentally changing them instead of the mostly "evolutionary" approach HP used.
"Whether it's in HP Labs or in R&D, where can we change the name of the game?" she asked, adding that the company should "focus on doing a few things really well instead of giving everything just a little bit."
Whitman did promise "big changes" in printing, servers, and other divisions, although she wasn't clear on what those were. The executive did vow to reduce the company's dependence on bolting on new technology through acquisitions and more on "organic," internal development. A stronger emphasis was coming on research and development as well as core products.
One shareholder suggested HP emulate Apple's retail strategy with its own stores, so that he didn't have to wait "two to three weeks" just to get a printer fixed. HP does have its own stores in Brazil, Whitman said, but much of her emphasis was on major improvements to HP's website, where she wanted both a better shopping experience as well as much faster turnaround on service.
Another grilled HP over what he saw as truly exciting technology at HP. He too pointed to Jobs, noting that Apple's co-founder said he succeeded by making products that were "just better" and "years ahead of the competition," most of all in mobile. It was possible to simply walk down the street and buy something similar to what HP offered, the shareholder said, calling into doubt HP's claims to innovation.
Whitman countered that HP was first or second in virtually every business and mainly needed to improve by tailoring products more directly to exact needs. She was nonetheless deferring to Jobs, acknowledging that his view had worked well for Apple. "We all have to applaud Apple for its success," she said. "Steve Jobs is the business leader of our generation."