Michael Capellas

AGE: 48

CLAIM TO FAME: Previously held senior positions at Oracle Corp. and SAP America Inc., joining Compaq Computer Corp. as its CIO in 1998. Most recently was CEO and chairman at Compaq, where he helped Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina arrange the merger of the two companies earlier this year.

WHAT HE'S DOING NOW: President of Hewlett-Packard Co.

What's been the biggest technology influence on your life? The biggest single influence was the PC. I was absolutely one of the first to have it out of the box and learned how to build spreadsheets. It thrust me into this love affair with technology. The idea of personal computing is what brought computation to personal productivity.

What will be the next technology advance that will radically change the business landscape? We have to change the user interface. The Star Trek guys did have it right. Pattern recognition and voice recognition and changing the interface so it truly becomes useful will be the things that radically change the business landscape.

Michael Capellas, president of Hewlett-Packard Co.
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Michael Capellas, president of Hewlett-Packard Co.
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What advances will change our day-to-day lives? Same answer: the interface. Another thing has to do with the way the data is changing. As content becomes richer and there are alternative interfaces, there will be an unbelievable mass of computing.

How will IT leadership change in the next 10 years? What will the IT organization look like? I think the IT leader as part of the core management team of an enterprise is now almost universally accepted, after the last three or four years. We went through a period of IT leaders being business types, as in the Web days, and we are returning to where everything in IT is going back to basics and now are working with a more operational and technical person who can interpret technology in a business way. Understanding the architecture is now the most important thing. The IT leaders of the future won't know how everything works but will understand how all the pieces work together.

You were a CIO who became CEO at Compaq. What are the lessons there? Any effective IT exec has to have the ability to look across an entire organization. And that's also what makes an effective CEO. There's a natural fit there. And you must be persuasive; that's true for both roles. Also, nobody does it all themselves, and it's about partner relationships.

As the Web came on board, it was externally oriented, and how people thought about services was through the Web search. The creation of your brand being driven by the Web has meant that CIOs have had to think about presentations and the marketing side of business. All those things create a broad-based individual. One skill CIOs have to learn in order to move up is the sales side of the business.

Which kinds of companies will be the big winners in the next decade? We're going through liquidity crunches and consolidation in multiple industries, not just technology, where industries will have one or two or three key players. Companies with global presence that still execute locally will win -- those that think global and act local.

In several companies, we've seen questionable ethics by board members and officers. Will fallout and legislation to correct matters have a long-term impact on technology businesses? I think the trend is back to normal. I think we are returning back to values, and the abnormal period in U.S. business was 1994 to 2000, the boom-boom '90s and instant gratification. So I actually think it is a return and renormalization, if there is such a thing. I also think the trend is tied to a megatrend of a whole return to conservative values in accounting and everything.

What kind of role will computers play in business 10 years from now? The idea of what is a mainframe and what is a distributed machine and what is client/server and a Web-caching machine will change. We will think of computation truly on the grid. Computers will sit on a network with specialty functions, and some will be large and highly parallel with Web cache servers on the edge of the grid. The idea is we will map all that capacity like a big power plant. Software will manage the grid on top and provision capacity and solve bottlenecks -- an air traffic control system with much higher utilization out of every component. Companies will share computing power, but the question will be, Who owns it? Computation will be like the power grid, but 10 years from now we will truly think of computation as every bit of a utility as a telephone or a TV today.

How much computing power will $100 buy in 10 years? It will be a different paradigm from that. The paradigm is going to be, What will be a monthly bill for computing? I won't think of this concept of what kinds of computers will we buy, but how many services will $100 of computation buy me?

What new applications haven't been developed yet? We haven't yet developed applications that I call intelligent or iterative applications. Today, we think of an application doing something like sales or CRM or security. Truthfully, what we're really interested in is correlating data. We're interested in intelligent applications that can help us when we say, "Gee, I'm really interested to go on the west side of town and watch a movie and eat Italian, and I don't want to drive more than 15 minutes." I'm going to give the computer some parameters, and it will give me the right answers.

That goes for business applications as well. We still think about data in compartments. What will happen in the next generation of computation is we will start to be able to correlate unstructured data. That's where I don't necessarily see the relationship, but the computer is smart enough to understand the relationship. There will be a return of "intelligent agents" in the ability to match unstructured data.

Is there a good system in place for business, government and research labs around the world to promote good IT innovations? The correlation of true partnerships with government, education and the private sector is very rudimentary. There are encouraging examples of this happening, but the institutionalizing of this in any significant way hasn't happened yet. But it will. It has to.

What belongs on a list of the top innovations of the past 35 years, and why? The PC, yes. The Internet and the original browsers that hit the Internet and actually allowed you to go in and do things. There's the relational database that arrived in the late '70s, and so for the first time you could [start to] actually relate data. Here's an interesting one people won't think of: In the '90s, we had the first integrated ERP packages to pull things together. They defined massive amounts of data, and now every single business has an ERP system. It was all around client/server integrated applications. Continuing the list: I think you have to put Windows in there. GUIs made computation more friendly and allowed it to reach the masses.

What are some recent innovations that matter, such as wireless? Wireless hasn't had impact yet. We are currently doing nothing particularly interesting in computing. Right now, there is really no killer implementation of a new technology. We are currently in a breathing space between the last big one and the next one. We hear IT is commoditizing and we don't see a whole lot interesting going on, and that's why spending is down as well.

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