back to article HP: Still choosing the wrong women

The news that Meg Whitman has taken over the top job at HP has left some in the industry scratching their heads. Sure, she was a reasonably safe pair of hands at eBay (besides splashing out billions on Skype for reasons best known to herself), but as a replacement for Leo Apotheker, she’s unlikely to be a success. That’s because …


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  1. jake Silver badge


    Ann should have had the job years ago.

    But today, I think she's better for HP where she is.

    Meg's going to blunder about, and probably run the company into the ground the rest of the way. They should have hired Carol Bartz ... but with Ann on The Board, there's still a voice of reason involved ...

    (Disclaimer: I worked for Bill & Dave, and I have worked for/with all the above women in various places, but I no longer own any stake in HP outside nostalgia.)

  2. dbnnet

    Fire the Board!

    HP lost its way and started its decline with Carly F. It became a "Circus" with Mark H as he was nothing more than an obsessed bean counter. But the real blame goes to a clearly incompetent board that seems clueless in being able to get the right leadership in place.

    Does anyone really believe that Meg W will last for more than 24 months?

  3. IO-IO

    Computer says no..

    The problem with HP today is that it's full of people that have been there for 20 years or more and have no clue as to the world outside of HP's walls. They need new blood to get this company going again. Unfortunately any newcomers will find it hard to change a business where a massive beaurocracy has been built on "the HP way".

    Anyone who has experienced the inner workings of the company will know that massive change is required in every aspect of the business.

    Ironic considering HP has always preached about agility but have no clue how to do it in their own business.

    1. T.a.f.T.

      It is odd to see a split where people are saying "HP should have kept going the HP way and getting people from outside is what has ruined the company" and then have a comment like yours which says the exact opposite. Stale and needing shake is what the board thought when they started screwing it up a decade ago by the sounds of things. How many companies in recent history have managed to go through a fresh blood approach and still be alive 5years down the line?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bring new sales strategy

      Actually, you are wrong. There are plenty of bright people in HP for 20 or even more years who perfectly understand IT and contemporary trends.

      Unfortunately, strategy pushed not so long time ago "we will hire 1500 new sales, we will hire 2500 new sales, we will ... sale, we will .... sales" moved those people to margins. Usually they were left on their own (if not fired), whilst all those salesman army was spending money on luxurious trips, team buildings, relationship buildings and all kind of such events - but with short term results.

      Those strategist were so good at cost cutting (well, for customers or on employees accounts) that they cut themselves leaving HP without any consistent strategy and customer approach; except maybe in marketing and events mentioned above.

      The only way HP can go is charted by Leo. His removal is nothing more than damage control attempt and get more from shares while they are worth something.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The days of box shifting are over.

    The days of box shifting are over. So are the days of "reinventing yourself as a software and services company".

    There are one too many monkeys on either branch. The margin has been sucked out of the living daylight from both of these.

    That leaves only one margin - in technology and engineering - it is exactly what Apple is doing and its financial results say everything that there is to be said about engineering vs boxshifting, price manipulation and other MBAsturbation.

    HP has voluntarily surrendered its engineering margins elsewhere. Its PCs are mostly designed by OEMs/ODMs, it failed on the WebOS, it failed elsewhere too. That is what it needs to fix and frankly I do not see the current "celebrity CEO" choice doing anything regarding that.

  5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    HP's problem

    ...starts at the very top of the company, ie within the board of directors. It is unlikely that HP can resolve its operations problems (including selecting a suitable CEO) unless the board starts actually working together.

    Unfortunately, it is also unlikely that the shareholders will elect a 'better' board.

  6. Andus McCoatover

    I think they're "doing a Nokia"

    'Nuff said.

  7. James Anderson

    l am a CEO get me out of here......

    All will become clear when next seasons top rated reality show goes prime time.

    It is the only rational explanation.

  8. Johan Bastiaansen

    what planet are you on?

    Promote competent and loyal people? What a strange concept!

  9. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    So many myths!

    Sorry, but the article is completely wrong on so many points. The Agilent split had already started under Lew Platt, before Carly Fiorina got her bum on the driving seat, and was too late for her to stop. As it is, Agilent Tech sold off the old medical equipment parts to Phillips anyway, and has since languished as a smaller tech company (currently $10.8bn market cap and only $270m net income in the last quarter). If she deemed it necessary, Carly could have bought the company back at any time. Indeed, hp could now afford to buy it out of the petty cash.

    The important split Carly did stop was the one where the OpenView part of the company wanted to hive itself off, which kept hp in system management and built the basis of the "deploy, manage, upgrade and migrate all in one management package" mantra that has made the hp blades products the undisputed market leaders. Carly realised that, in a game where many players would be using the same chips and disks and interconnects, the "secret sauce" was going to be the management software, so she kept the OpenView team inhouse.

    Under Carly, hp really developed and pushed the Adaptive Enterprise, effectively private clouds, only years before the market was ready for it. But she was also quick to realise the market wasn't ready and made sure the product could be reworked and modularised, meaning hp re-used developments rather than the "buy-try-dump" phillosophy of Hurd.

    As to all the trolls saying hp has since been "a disaster", you have to laugh as the results show Carly turned the company from an engineering-led, bumbling giant, into the leading IT company, bar none. When Carly came in, hp were the number five vendor behind IBM, Compaq (which had swallowed DEC to overtake hp), Sun and EMC, and with Dell rapidly gaining on hp. The buyout of Compaq only lifted hp to number three, there was still lots of work to do. Yet within four years she had lifted hp to number one, chased IBM out of the Wintel desktop business, defeated Dell at their own game, and happilly watched Sun commit the type of bumbling techno-suicide that hp was intent on before her arrival. Lew Platt was old-school hp, an engineer and genuinely nice guy. Carly was no engineer, and not "nice", but she was what hp needed at the time - a businessperson. Hurd is just a pale imitation of Carly, and did litle more than execute on her general strategy.

    There is a reason Livermore has been passed over, and it's voiced by many hp old-timers I know - she's just not up to the job. Given a task she can execute, but she doesn't have vision. On the board she will provide some balance, but she is not right to lead it. Meg Whitman will make a good (temporary?) choice as she will steady the ship and restore Will Street's confidence in hp (because Wall Street is full of business people, not techies, and they look at Whitman and see her as a businessperson), but I do think they need to find a long-term option and this time it needs to be someone with all three traits - businessperson, techie, and visionary. Whitman ticks two out of the three boxes, we'll see if she can make all three.

    There is a lot more to being a top tech company than just having good engineers, you also need people that can predict business/user requirements and market/sell the products. Apple is good at all three in the consumer niche (and Apple has failed miserably elsewhere, such as servers). Sun originally had all three, but later was lauded for its engineers whilst failing miserably at the visionary bits and the marketting, and died. Hp is currently not good at marketting and stumbling in the visionary bits. Apothiker had a vision, one which he sold the hp board on, he just seems to have been a disaster at execution and needed to engage his brain before his mouth. It will be interesting to see what course Whitman steers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a sweet story

      Meanwhile, back in the real world...

    2. Pony Tail

      They should have hired me

      I am available for any CEO position of a major IT company.

      I resided over the acquisition of a top open source database.

      I am techy

      I am a leader in communications with my blogs

      I am located in the valley

      I know hardware

      I know enterprise hardware

      Larry Ellison doesn't hate me

      I doubled the value of my last companies stock through a successful acquisition.

      Meg will be out in a me

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We obviously

      used to work for a very different company.

      There is less to being a top tech company to having pretty (of either sex) CEOs. Fiorina (remember her 'rebranding of the iPod anyone?') put style over substance, Hurd worked hard to maximise his personal gain - to paraphrase one of the founders of HP 'tell me how you are going to measure me and I will tell you how I will behave' and whileremoving fat, also decided that exec bonuses would benefit if HP lived off its muscle for a few years, Apotheker - crumbs, well at least the incompetence of the board can be well and truly fingered.

      Possibly this is a reflection of the fact that companies willk grow to the point where they are poor value for employees and shareholders. Unstustainable growth expectations, poor business and technical decisions. Remember that HP's R&D is now a poor shadow of what it once was (some bizarre decisions to replace a board level exec with a propoer appreciation of the role R&D might play with a second rate academic). Where is its future?

      Sold my shares 18 months ago.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Sold mine @ $47 - 5 years ago..

        Admittedly didn't see the top end at ~$50 but things were headed in the wrong direction long before the share price reflected it.. If you're still sitting on options.. here's a fun exercise :

  10. Paul Bruneau

    Build the Apple I

    No, they didn't turn down an offer to build the Apple I, they turned down an offer to OWN the Apple I.

    Wozniak, being very ethical, took his brilliant design to HP because he was working at HP at the time, and he had signed an agreement (as all engineering employees did I'm sure) that anything he invented while working at HP, HP had a right to.

    They weren't in the PC business because there was no such thing as a PC (Woz having just invented it), so it's not so odd that they turned it down. They would've needed the vision of Jobs in order to want it.

    And even then, corporate politics might have turned it into crap or killed it in the crib.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @Paul Bruneau

      Incorrect. The Woz did NOT invent the PC. I was at the Homebrew meeting when he demoed the first Apple 1 ... There were many other PCs in evidence in the room at the time.

      1. jake Silver badge


        Actually, the other Steve did the demo. The Woz nervously hovered around in the background, as was nearly always the case in the early years. Jobs==Marketing; Woz==Engineering.

  11. Merrill

    How hard can it be to run a printer ink company?

    Is it not true that most of HP's profits come from selling printer ink?

    The rest of the company is a hobby.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ink doesn't deliver a quarter..

      Q4 is here - ink is a very predictable business the down side is that it is in cash-cow mode - i.e. nothing will make it deliver more money either revenue or profit. Only way to do it is by gaining on operational efficiencies (reducing cost) .. and Hurd already did that , too well perhaps. Spinning off ink is the only other alternative - downside there is that it will expose all the other weaknesses within HP. ( as you put it " Hobbies" )

      Whitman and Lane on CNBC blowing up their field capability. What they forget is that the channel is ( WAS ? ) their field. No partner is going to sell a lame duck to their customers .. never mind HP's schizophrenic(direct) approach to their partners. AHA .. Lane just said the key words at the end of the interview -to paraphrase : " HP and Oracle will compete but they will try to co-operate with Oracle " Whitman " We'll be the adults in the room"

      I wonder if this whole thing isn't as simple as Larry vs Leo - we all know Larry wasn't going to back down.

      1. Merrill

        The channel is probably in trouble

        At least for peddling Intel servers, as companies cap their data centers and migrate applications to one or another of the various types of cloud computing and hosting. HP would seem to have no particular lock on selling servers to hosting and cloud companies, the largest of whom like to have a hand in the design of kit made specifically for them.

        The "Larry vs Leo" matter also forced Leo into hiding for a month or more. Possibly this contributed to his reputation for being a "poor communicator", since it is difficult to get your message out while on the lam.

  12. Lars Silver badge

    @Matt Bryant

    There is no way for me to know if you are right or wrong as I have no inside information, but

    congratulations for a well written comment. Perhaps Fiorinas accomplishments where not seen as she seemed to put her own person in the spotlight too strongly, or perhaps it was the way the press wanted to see her.

    Whitman I have seen and heard on Youtube, cannot say I expect much, but then again who knows.

    And sometimes I wonder how good the chances for a new CEO are to change anything soon without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carly? iPod?

    Yeah, I remember the all-employee meeting where Carly went out of her way to praise, (multiple times mind you!), the "best engineering idea to come out of HP in the past year" ... pretty printed skins that could be glued to an iPod. I threw up a little in my mouth over that.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Meg's just the right women for the job.

    Afterall...when with Ebay...she purchased Skype in '05 for USD$4.1 BILLION cash...then had the good fortune to sell it four years on for USD$ 2.75 billion.

    Simply perfect HP thinking. What a Gal!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "to paraphrase one of the founders of HP 'tell me how you are going to measure me and I will tell you how I will behave' "

    Actually, that was W. Edwards Deming who said that a long, long time ago, and it still holds true today. Why do you think so many CEOs are only focused on quarter-to-quarter?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deming = genius

    Understandably unpopular with the board in general though, due to his distinction between management and leadership ("quality starts at the top", "constancy of purpose", etc).

    Well worth a read for anyone who's only ever heard the other side of the "Japanese quality" story.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Warhol said

    In the future everyone will get to be CEO of HP for 15 minutes

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