Can HP Remake Itself Before It's Too Late?
When a company's most recent success is a good Olympic slogan, it's a sad day, but such is the current state of HP. The once mighty force has become a fragmented mess.
News from the last quarter only compounds how dire things have become: HP took a $1.5 billion charge against earnings due to a greater number of employees taking an early retirement package than had been anticipated. As if the company could afford to lose talent. To paraphrase the old aphorism: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first deplete of their valuable employees.
The brain drain on top of the increasing irrelevance of HP in many key markets and its inability thus far to credibly enter any new markets makes the question that remains not whether CEO Meg Whitman can keep the company alive, but how she will dismantle HP into something that's both manageable and relevant in today's market.
If even that option remains.
It's been almost a year since that fateful day in August 2011 when then-CEO Leo Apotheker, following the misdirection of a board that was asleep at the switch in so many well-documented ways, announced the possible spinoff of HP's PC unit, the death of Palm, and the acquisition of Autonomy. The ensuing firestorm undeservedly cost Apotheker, his chief of staff, HP's long-time CTO, and numerous others their jobs and their reputations. It was as shocking a misfire as I have ever seen in almost 30 years of covering the IT industry.
Into the breach rode Meg Whitman, promising stability and leadership, and armed, one would assume, with an ironclad agreement that she would get more than the paltry 11 months Apotheker was given to clean up a mess that was decades in the making.
With the close of Whitman's first year rapidly approaching, I think it's safe to say that not much has changed for HP. The company's revenue and market share continue to decline as core markets like PCs and services fall apart. The Autonomy acquisition, which couldn't have been undone even if Whitman had wanted to, has proven to be as troubled as most of the company's other large acquisitions--witness the untimely departure of Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch in May, six months following the acquisition, and the complete absence of a public strategy to integrate Autonomy and create a pan-HP value proposition around its enterprise search capabilities.
Meanwhile, Palm is dead (though it appears that HP is trying to keep a zombified version of Palm OS alive), HP lost Vyomesh "VJ" Joshi, the driving force behind its highly successful printer division, and partnerships with the likes of SAP have been troubled by the inability of HP to move fast enough on the hardware side to keep pace with its partners' software innovations. Meanwhile, EDS is being gutted amid a planned $8 billion write-down, having proven in one quarter too many that it has been unable to adapt its go-to-market to pick up the large volume of smaller, strategic deals that it needs to turn in consistent quarterly success.