The Palm acquisition now appears to be another waste of money -- $1.2 billion, to be exact. Could it have been handled any worse? Even before Palm was acquired, its former software division CEO, Todd Bradley, joined HP and took over the PC unit. There's a great idea. Hire a failed CEO to drive one of your biggest business units. And once Palm was absorbed into HP, Bradley got to run it again since it was part of his business unit. Brilliant.
I always thought Ray Lane did a great job before Larry Ellison pushed him out of Oracle (Lane then landed at HP as chairman of the board), but Chowdhry asks, "What has he accomplished since leaving Oracle?" Good question. And given the record of HP's board, wouldn't it have made sense to appoint a more aggressive chairman who was closer to the technologies of the 21st century? We're moving into the post-PC era, and it's going to take the best talent for older, PC-centric companies to manage the transition.
Start taking the steps to save HP
Firing the leaders who've messed up is only the first step. HP needs a new board with people on it who have achieved significant success in mobile technology and software (former Oracle president Charles Phillips, perhaps?), as well as officers who know the meat and potatoes of hardware and services. It needs to develop a serious mobile strategy and come to grips with the reality that Itanium is dead, dead, dead. If HP wants to exit hardware, there has to be a transitional strategy. Suddenly cutting the PC business loose at the same time HP's mobile strategy is in ruins may seem bold to Apotheker, but I think it smacks of desperation. Pretending you can turn into IBM overnight makes no sense.
I admit I'm being harsh. But the stakes are really high. When big companies go, a lot of people get hurt. Giants like HP not only employ tens of thousands of workers, they're at the center of an ecosystem that employs many thousands more -- from engineers at component makers to independent software developers coding WebOS apps and the low-paid help making sandwiches in the company cafeteria. And hundreds of thousands -- millions, even -- of people rely on the products every day.
Those people deserve to keep their jobs, shareholders don't deserve an ugly haircut, and customers deserve good products from a company that can keep delivering. I hope HP makes the changes that are so obviously needed.
This article, "The sharks are circling HP -- can anyone save it?," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.