Brilliant analysis. I tend to agree. I had much higher expectation for WebOS, too...
What I find fascinating, though, is that many of our readers do care about HP. They get so passionate about what HP could have done or should have done. The company, which served as a quintessential campus to nurture many engineers in Silicon Valley for decades, not only draws criticism but also support. During my time in the Bay Area, I met a lot of brilliant minds at HP, and I often found them courteous and helpful.
@DMcCunney...thanks again....I reckon I could publish your posts as a beginners guide to Linux :-). I will try and get this done soon, I had a look around the Ubuntu site and they have a lot of help there too. I'm pretty busy with other stuff at present but I've wanted to try this for a bit, so hope it won't be too long. I'll let you know how I go.
@MeasurementBlues: HP, as all technology companies, should be run by someone with engineering background
Really? Then perhaps you can explain the success of technology company Apple Computers under the late Steve Jobs? Jobs was not an engineer. He dropped out of Reed College after 6 months, wasn't an engineering major, and while he studied a variety of things after dropping out, engineering wasn't one of them. Yet under Jobs, Apple became arguably the most successful technology company ever.
The underlying assumption here seems to be "If an engineer were running HP, it wouldn't be in trouble!" That's wishful thinking at best. HP's current problems aren't engineering problems. They are rooted in finance, marketing, and underlying shifts in the marketplace, which historically are things engineers haven't been good at.
The best CEOs know the customer and the market inside out. They do not always come from within. Revenue comes from outside of the enterprise: you get it by selling things customers want to buy. You need to understand what the customer perceives as valuable, and it may not be what you assume it is.
The CEO promoted from within may have the problem of tunnel vision imposed by spending a career in a company whose vision of the world was increasingly incongruent with reality. Spend a career in an organization, and you pick up the organization's viewpoints and attitudes by osmosis, as part of fitting in and advancing in the company.
What if the organization's view is simply wrong? If so, yours will be too, and you won't be able to fix the problems despite "knowing the business inside out", because you won't understand what the problems are. Such understanding comes from stepping outside the local context and seeing things from a different perspective. The longer you have been with a firm, the harder that is to do.
HP's case is more complex, starting with the question of just what HP is.
HP, indeed, has grown into just too many things to many people (internally and externally) without a clear focus. That, I think, is the crux of the issue.
Yes.And I agree with the "internally and externally" part. Ask 20 random people inside HP and outside HP what HP is, and I think you'll get as many different answers, or more.
We all see things from our own viewpoint, and are often not conscious of the boundaries of that viewpoint. We see the piece of the puzzle we are in as the whole puzzle. It's easy for divisional managers in a large corporation to see their division as the core of the corporation, and the rest as appendages, and I suspect there's some of that in HP.
HP doesn't have a focus, and arguably hasn't had one in quite some time. It's a collection of disparate businesses collected under an umbrella labeled HP, but is not a coherent whole. You can get away with that as long as the individual parts are prospering, but is any have problems, they can poison the whole enterprise.
Succesor Leo Apothecker tried to blame HP's problems on the Palm aquisition. Apothecker had the idea of shifting HP into software services and away from dependence on hardware. It's a nice thought, and IBM previously did something much like it. But IBM began the process much earlier. They wanted to reduce dependence on cyclical mainframe sales with long lead times and revenue peaks and valleys, but they started while the hardware business they were trying to diversify from was still healthy. Doing so when your hardware business is in trouble, like HPs, is a much different matter. HP probably can become a player in software and services, but it needs to be healthy otherwise first.
I don't envy Meg Whitman. She gets brickbats, but she inherited a mess. Right now, she's trying to keep HP alive. Complaining that she isn't an engineer misses the point. Engineers aren't necessarily good managers, and engineering driven companies can have predictable problems. DEC was one such, with a propensity for relasing neat technology, then trying to figure out what the customer might do with it. Another example might be Xerox's attempt at the computer field with the Xerox Star workstation. The were a company that developed neat technology other companies turned into salable products. (I believe about half of the folks at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center would up at Apple in the Macintosh group, taking ideas pioneered at Xerox PARC and turing into systems people wanted to buy.)
HP needs a unifying vision. If Whitman can develop and articulate one, it doesn't matter that she's not an engineer. If she can't, it wouldn't matter if she was.
>> @aarunaku: Would like to see one bold CEO who comes out saying that he/she will take 30-50% pay cut to avoid layoffs.
I do not think the CEO salary is the problem. Imagine if we can guarantee that higher pay provides better returns (there is no correlation to that). I will be happy to pay you $20m if you can add a value of $2B in the stock valuation in a year. Why people are complaining is that the pay has no bearing on performance. But there are cases when they deserve. I will be happy to give the CEO of Micro $20m this year for growing the stock 238% in 2013.
>> of the new measurement company being split off from Agilent.
I am not sure Agilent is holding up with Tek which seems to be leading that market sector. Being an Agilent will not help HP. They need to evolve to survive as Amazon, Google and others eat into their cakes.