Stepping out from Hurd's shadow, HP looks to the cloud

HP CEO Leo Apotheker says the HP cloud will be for consumers and the enterprise

Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker took a step out of Mark Hurd's shadow Monday, unveiling a new cloud computing platform that puts the company in competition with Amazon and Google.

In addition to an infrastructure-as-a-service offering, HP will also deliver a marketplace for consumer, small and medium business, and enterprise applications, Apotheker said.

There will be something for every HP customer in the marketplace, he said. "We'll provide a single open market that integrates consumer, enterprise and developer services," he said, speaking at an event held for press and analysts in San Francisco Monday. The cloud marketplace will include an application store, as well as developer tools and enterprise services and support, he said.

HP isn't saying when it will deliver its new marketplace or the cloud services, but Apotheker billed the services as open and able to support many development languages, and designed to be used by any software maker. "We will only vet the applications for security and interoperability," he said.

HP already has the know-how to build such offerings. It is well-established as a vendor of consumer and data center technology, as well as the middleware software needed to glue different applications together. It has ambitions to be as large as some of the existing well-known cloud service providers.

"If you want to be in the cloud business, it has to be large-scale," Apotheker said. "You have to be able to serve customers everywhere."

But it's unclear whether HP can attract software developers to its new platform and excite consumers and developers in the same way as competitors such as Google and Amazon.

Investors have been looking for some reassurance since Apotheker took over from Hurd nearly five months ago. HP's stock [HPQ] hasn't done well since Hurd's departure -- it's underperformed on the Standard & Poor's 500 index by about 17 percent -- and financial analysts wonder if Apotheker has what it takes to lead the company forward.

While technology companies such as Google and Apple have seen their profits rise on the basis of their success in the consumer market, HP has been looking for a hit lately. Last month, it announced the HP TouchPad -- a tablet that enters a market dominated by Apple's iPad. Based on the webOS software that HP picked up in its 2009 acquisition of Palm, the TouchPad is expected to debut in June.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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