The move underscores a new intent for HP, a company with a history steeped in hardware and consumer markets, but that has handed control to someone with a background in enterprise software earned over two decades at SAP.
"Leo is a strategic thinker with a passion for technology, wide-reaching global experience and proven operational discipline," said Robert Ryan, lead independent director of the board at HP.
It is therefore an interesting move for HP to tap up Apotheker, who competed directly against Oracle during his tenure at SAP, and will be head on with them in many more markets now as the ICT industry consolidates and converges.
"As we move forward, HP will continue to be a valued partner with our customers as well as a fierce competitor. I look forward to working with the outstanding people at HP to write the next chapter in the company's long and proud history," said Apotheker.
HP has also elected Ray Lane, managing partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a new board member and non-exec Chairman. Both Lane and Apotheker start from HP's fiscal New Year on 1 November.
One of the "biggest challenges" facing Apotheker is to boost top line growth, said Martin Reynolds, managing vice president at Gartner.
"Mark Hurd's transformational cost cutting and operational focus brought profitability across the company, but HP's low-level sales engagements and engineering culture made growing revenues a challenge," he said in a blog post.
The appointment of an executive vice president of sales would certainly help HP, he continued, "centralising sales and marketing" to foster greater collaboration and cross-selling.
Philip Carnelley, research director at TechMarketView, said staff morale at SAP "plunged" during Apotheker's relatively brief reign which contributed to his departure.
"Admittedly he was forced into cost reductions by the major downturn in SAP's fortunes as the market contracted. But he failed to get buy-in for the company's response," he said.
Apotheker managed to upset customers as well by trying to raise maintenance fees as the economy showed signs of fragility, Carnelley added
But he reckoned HP's software business has struggled to "make its mark" and the new CEO may have some solutions to improve its standing in the global arena.