HP's New 'Personal Cloud' Combines Work and Life

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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 are a number of elements to Apotheker's cloud announcement , made Monday at a press and analyst event in San Francisco, but two in particular seem to stand 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, to 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 Android or Apple app stores will recognize this, but HP plans to also use it to sell apps to enterprise customers. 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," he said.

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. Until the products are out, analysts offered assessments about what they see 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, a new range of possibilities can happen, Gillett explained.

If an employee, for instance, decides to put new LinkedIn or Facebook credentials into a Salesforce 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-in 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 holds 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," said Enderle.

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.

Building an application market shouldn't be a problem for HP, which can offer consumer and enterprise application developers access to its enormous customer base. HP previously announced plans to put its webOS, the operating system acquired with its purchase of Palm, on every new PC it ships, a distribution potential in the hundreds of millions, along with an established sales force that reaches enterprises worldwide.

"The developers are heat seekers - they move to where the volume is, where the money is," said Crawford Del Prete, an analyst with IDC. But what type of cloud will HP build? Will it be a cloud that is difficult to exit from, or unable to work with other cloud services that customers are certain to use?

A big player in this is Microsoft , and although Apotheker talked about HP's long friendship with Microsoft, he didn't disclose how the two may work. Del Prete said HP's cloud platform will work well with Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, allowing developers and users to easily use both.

Monday's announcement was Apotheker's first real effort to explain how he will differ from his predecessor, Mark Hurd, who was forced to resign following board questions about his employment of a former B-movie actress at high-level customer events. Apotheker was appointed in September.

Analysts said that some of the work that led to Monday's announcements are projects that began under Hurd, but what Apotheker offered was a cohesive and unifying strategy for the company.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.

This story, "HP's New 'Personal Cloud' Combines Work and Life" was originally published by Computerworld.

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