What Hurd's sudden departure means for HP

Two big challenges -- mobile and tech services -- remain unresolved, but HP's management depth gives hope that the tech giant will not stall

How important was Mark Hurd's five years at the helm of Hewlett-Packard? In the most basic sense, that's easy to answer: The company's stock-market value more than doubled, rising from $44.6 billion, rising to $108.1 billion, since Hurd become CEO on April 1, 2005.

What's unclear is how important he is today, and whether his sudden departure from HP on Friday after a probe of alleged sexual harassment will cause confusion and stasis just as HP has been regaining its strength in the marketplace or if he's laid sufficient groundwork that the company can continue without him with minimal disruption.

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What Hurd's departure means for HP and its customers
Losing a popular CEO is certain to cause some stumbles in the stock market, and employees will probably feel a bit distracted for a time. But HP has a very deep bench of experienced managers who could take Hurd's place or provide stability during the transition should an outsider be tapped.

What's more, Hurd's shelf life may have been expiring: "Every top manager has a limited amount of time when his ideas are really fresh. Hurd may have beer reaching the end of that period," says Rick Sturm, CEO of EMA, an analyst firm.

Although HP has been doing well in the desktop space, regaining marketshare from Dell, which has suffered a string of product quality woes, Hurd leaves with two big challenges unresolved:

  • HP just bought Palm and is figuring out its mobile strategy: what to do with WebOS for handhelds, tablets, printers, and more, and how these relate to its PC and peripherals businesses.
  • And although it's been two years since HP acquired technology services provider EDS, "the jury is still out" on that gargantuan effort, Sturn says. "At the very least, there's a good deal of integration left to accomplish."
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