Hewlett-Packard's CEO Leo Apotheker is taking cloud computing to the forefront of HP's strategy, a move that reshapes how the company will serve its consumer and enterprise customers.
There were a number of elements to Apotheker's cloud announcement, made Monday at a press and analyst event in San Francisco, but two in particular stood out.
The first is HP's plan to create a "personal cloud" that may enable workers who access work applications from their personal smartphones and communicate with co-workers and customers via social networks do a better job at linking what are now treated as separate worlds.
The second is the creation of an app store. Anyone familiar with the Android or Apple app stores will recognize this strategy, but HP plans to use it to sell apps to enterprise customers as well. An enterprise-specific store may be fertile ground for new companies in particular and offer fresh ways to reach decision-makers at businesses.
Broadly, Apotheker said HP will create in its cloud platform "a single open market that integrates consumer, enterprise and developer services -- each of us with our own personal cloud, comprising our consumer and professional lives -- always on, and always available, separate, secure and seamless."
It may take until sometime next year before all the elements of HP's strategy are in place and the details behind Apotheker's vision are realized. In the meantime, analysts speculated about what may be coming.
Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research, sees a need for integration between personal and work environments, represented by Apotheker's personal cloud.
Many people have extensive lists of professional contacts on social networking sites, and if that information can be integrated with work systems, that opens up a range of new possibilities, Gillett explained.
For instance, if an employee decides to put new LinkedIn or Facebook credentials into a Salesforce.com account in preparation for a customer visit, "you can see if you know somebody from your network at the company," said Gillett.
Some employers may even decide to let employees use their Facebook log-ins for corporate networks, said Gillett.
"That's the kind of intersection or integration we're going to see between work and personal, and that will make it advantageous for a company such as HP to help companies do that," he said.
Selling enterprise apps via an app store introduces some interesting possibilities, according to Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group.
"Typically, enterprises like to be intimate with the vendors that are supplying the technology, and the app store model breaks that up," he said.
But an app store will provide business users with access to small application developers who might otherwise have trouble scaling to the needs of an enterprise, said Enderle. In this case, "HP services can be wrapped around them and they can be made enterprise-ready -- that's how I suspect it will work," he said.