HP’s board asks a deep fundamental question, possibly 10 months too late

“Is this the right person for the job”?

I pointed out that the direction itself was probably not that well thought out, and the concept … dropping 1/3 of your revenue base, when you are atop the market in terms of installed base and run rate, probably wasn’t an idea that really should have been given serious credence.

HP’s board is now, belatedly, asking … do we have the right person for the job? Given the leaks … they are either rumor grist for the mill, or the board is trying to be savvy and telegraph their moves (I think the latter) so as not to spook wall street any more (or their customer base).

I’ve had a number of discussions with a number of their customers. The most common view on this is disgust, profound disbelief … things like that. I have to say that these folks have given me almost endless ammunition to target any question as to stability of business. I can point to HP (and Sun, and …) as examples of very large businesses who’ve changed suddenly and in such a way as to annoy many customers … to the point of many of them looking around for greener pastures. We do see some customers pushing to go to the next large vendor, but the more savvy customers, the ones who have a better grasp of how the market works … such folks focus upon value, and less upon front label text. This is part of the change HP and Sun have wrought. That djinni is out of the bottle. I don’t think its going back in.

No, the board should have asked this question, pointedly, before they hired him. Meg Whitman as interim could be ok, though, as with Leo, she doesn’t have much of a background in HP. And HP is big.

I used to joke that HP was a printer ink company with printers, computers, and other things bolted onto the side. This said, I am a happy consumer of their printers, printer ink, and in the past anyway, their laptops. They make good stuff. Dispensing with the organizations on the computer side that make good stuff … not so bright.

Yeah, you can wind up your services business, and wind down your less profitable businesses. You can do it slowly, with intent, with care, and with consideration as to how it will play in the market. Sort of like IBM. Remember, they used to build deli meat scales. They don’t anymore. They do other things. Now with lots of services as one of their main products. HP can emulate this model, or strike out on its own and develop its version with HP specific precision.

But it also means … not doing foolish things. Like announcing a division has no value and you’ll close or sell it, and then asking for buyers for something you just deemed worthless. Or buying a promising phone company and stack, and then killing them. Or hiring a CEO who ….

You get the idea.

This feels like a telegraphing of a move. I hope they get someone good in there. HP is a fine company with a long tradition of excellent engineering, interesting products. Would be good to see it invigorated.

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