HP's Apotheker comes up empty

Long on vision, short on details, Hewlett-Packard's 'summit' leaves us wondering what its cloud and mobile strategies really mean for the enterprise

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Indeed, my colleague Eric Knorr, one of the IDG editors who conducted the extended interview with Apotheker, said to him: "That kind of begs the question of where WebOS is going." Apotheker replied: "Fair question. I'll talk to you next time."

You're bragging that WebOS is going to be on 100 million devices (get real) but you won't tell us why it really delivers competitive advantage for the enterprise? Why wouldn't we be scratching our heads? Or deciding it's an empty promise?

The leadership vacuum
Apotheker's appointment as CEO following the ignominious exit of Mark Hurd surprised lots of people in the industry, so asking him what he brings to the table is a reasonable question. His answer in the extended interview: "I'm almost tempted to say I don't think I need to answer that question, but I won't go that far ... I believe that I bring to the table a certain number of unique assets, like any other human being when they're brought to the table. Mine is to have a pretty broad view on what information technology is and where it can go, and then translate that into a strategy and then into an executable plan."

Are you impressed by that?

Apotheker came into the job facing huge management challenges. You don't need an MBA to know that the company's leadership structure is badly in need of an overhaul. Did we hear about that this week? No. I guess that's just a tactic (!) and not a strategy.

HP's board of directors has been holding a master class in crummy management and compliance for years -- from its handling of the Hurd affair to its lunatic efforts to spy on journalists allegedly in possession of leaked information. And it got a lot of criticism for hiring Apotheker, whose pay package is about $47 million. So you'd think that Apotheker, as an outsider with absolutely no responsibility for past sins, would bend over backward to exhibit excellent ethical leadership.

Has he? Not according to a leading shareholder watchdog. Institutional Shareholder Services said last week that Apotheker's participation in the appointment of five new directors on Jan. 20 hampered the independence of those members and violated the company's own rules regarding the independence of board members, the ISS said.

For the record, here's the response HP gave to Dow Jones: ISS's recommendation was based on "their misinterpretation of the process that HP employed in identifying, selecting, and nominating our directors." It would not be in the best interest of HP shareholders to lose experienced and dedicated directors who have "carried out their obligations in a fully compliant manner."

There you have it: no detailed road map, no answers to critical management questions, and questionable compliance practices. As I said, I'm not going to use the B-word, but I will use the F-word, and that word is "fail," as in Apotheker failed to convince us that HP is back on track.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "HP's Apotheker comes up empty," 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.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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