With great power comes great pressure, tech CEOs are finding during this uncertain economic time.
Maybe it has something to do with the maturity of the technology industry. Or maybe it's the gut-wrenching, yes-we-can, no-we-can't nature of the economic recovery. But it seems that more tech company CEOs are on the hot seat these days than at any other time in recent memory. Here are a few examples drawn from recent headlines:
1. Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker, only nine months on the job, finds himself under intense scrutiny following the announcement a couple of weeks ago that HP is looking to spin off its PC business, close down its tablet and smartphone businesses, and pay more than $10 billion to acquire content management software vendor Autonomy--moves that lopped off a quarter of the company's market cap.
As I wrote in a column last week, Job 1 for Apotheker is to "articulate a mission and vision that HP's people can rally around and its customers can appreciate." Apotheker has been less than clear on where he's taking the company, indicating just a few months ago that consumers were a big focus, then doing a 180-degree turn this month when he pulled the plug on PCs, tablets, and phones. HP's lack of clarity cost Apotheker's top communications exec his position last week (he was reassigned.) Will the CEO's job be on the line next?
2. New AMD CEO Rory Read faces tall hurdles in his new role. In an interview with my colleague Robert Strohmeyer for an article posted today, Linley Group semiconductor analyst Tom R. Halfhill outlined no less than five huge challenges for Read and AMD: getting its act together to avoid all-too-common product delays; adjusting to third-party manufacturing now that AMD has spun off its foundry business; ramping up innovation in the hot mobile chip sector; keeping up with the much larger Intel in the server chip sector; and also keeping pace on security now that Intel has acquired McAfee. That all?
3. As VMware heads this week into its VMworld conference (one of a handful of true "ecosystem" events in the IT industry, bringing together myriad partners and suppliers as well as customers), CEO Paul Maritz must defend the company's dominance in virtualization. That continued dominance came under question earlier this month after VMware announced licensing changes--in effect, pricing increases--for its vSphere 5 platform, sending customers into a tizzy and opening a new crack for virtualization software rivals Microsoft and Citrix to exploit.
Having backtracked somewhat on the licensing changes, Maritz kicks off VMworld this week positioning VMware as the leader of the enterprise cloud movement. The company will announce a number of new products and services aimed at helping companies run a mix of private and public cloud resources, extending its vision for so-called hybrid clouds.
4. Even the new CEO of Apple, the most valuable company in the world, is squinting under the klieg lights as he takes over from founder-legend Steve Jobs. Apple's in good hands with Tim Cook, Jobs' omni-competent COO for many years. But at the risk of telling the planet's hottest company what to do next, Art Wittmann offers Cook some pointed advice on how to get closer to corporate customers. Like Apple fan boys, enterprise IT managers know what they want.
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