- Associated Press - Monday, November 22, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Two big questions surrounding the first few weeks of Leo Apotheker’s time as Hewlett-Packard Co.’s new CEO were answered Monday, when the company reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings.

One question concerned Apotheker’s whereabouts.

An HP rival, Oracle Corp., had been trying to force him to testify at an intellectual property trial involving Apotheker’s former employer SAP AG. But Oracle said HP refused to accept a subpoena on Apotheker’s behalf and HP accused Oracle of harassing Apotheker. Oracle wasn’t able to track down Apotheker, and the trial was sent to the jury Monday without Apotheker appearing in person, or Oracle playing a recorded deposition he had given in 2008.

During a conference call with reporters, Apotheker was asked where he was, and he laughed and called it an “odd question” and said he was at HP’s headquarters in Palo Alto. He said he probably set a “world record” for travel in recent weeks as he was meeting with HP employees and customers.

He called the Oracle fracas was an attempt to “distract” investors and the media.

“We know and we have heard over and over again these past few weeks that what really matters to our investors and employees is HP’s business performance and growth,” he said.

Later on a conference call with analysts, Apotheker addressed some areas he intends to focus on as HP’s CEO. Investors have been anxiously awaiting guidance from him, since he has been absent from public view since starting the job.

One area he intends to emphasize is beefing up HP’s software business, which will help close a gap HP has with IBM Corp.

QUESTION: Leo, you mentioned the need to enhance HP’s software position. What are your initial thoughts on whether that could be accomplished organically or through smaller acquisitions or whether HP needs to think about something more transformative here?

ANSWER (Apotheker): “It’s a very interesting question. It’s a bit early for me to give you a precise answer. What I can say at this moment in time is we want to strengthen our software capabilities, both as a business and also as a cross-HP capability to add more value to the various activities that we undertake. We have many options available to us. We can do some of it organically, some of it non-organically, and you understand that we won’t comment on any M&A activity during this call.”