As I said, you can't blame Apotheker for the past, but you can blame the board. Among its other puzzling mistakes, why did it hire Apotheker? His record at SAP was not very good, and he has little firsthand experience in the hardware business, which might explain his rush to ditch it.
Apotheker's breathtaking mistakes
When it comes to more recent moves, the list of Apotheker's mistakes is breathtaking. Consider the $11 billion planned purchase of Autonomy. "If you spend that money, it should be for applications that are mission-critical, that will stop the company if they don't run. Autonomy's software is nice to have, but not at all mission critical," Chowdhry says.
Neither I nor my InfoWorld colleagues were ever big fans of WebOS, but others were, and it does seem that HP's mobile strategy had a chance to succeed. But when the TouchPad flopped, Apotheker and the board panicked. Was the TouchPad the shortest-lived product ever launched by a major company? Even Microsoft's Bob lasted more than three months; the TouchPad lasted six weeks. I mean, come on!
Now Apotheher says WebOS isn't dead, but that HP can't make decent devices to run it on. (More precisely, it couldn't ensure the firm assembling the actual hardware under contract delivered a decent product.) That's an unconvincing sales pitch for potential WebOS licensees and any HP groups figuring out whether to adapt WebOS for something like printers. And it's an amazing admission for a company that makes (or, rather, has made for it) so much hardware.
Meanwhile, Apotheker is talking about spinning off the PC unit, which is, of course, an admission that the purchase of Compaq was a waste of $25 billion and thousands of lost jobs. Maybe he has reason to do so, but how about exploring an exit strategy before you tell Wall Street you're about to dump a significant segment of your business?
Think of how much value he knocked off the division by telegraphing his punch. And don't believe him when he says the SEC made him do it. Companies explore strategic moves all the time without running afoul of disclosure rules.