Whitman: No changes to HP’s announced strategy, but no commitments either
On today’s HP conference call following her appointment as HP CEO, Meg Whitman laid out her plans for HP, and on the surface it sounded almost like she was reading something that predecessor Leo Apotheker could have written. Her remarks were brief and to the point, but in summation: HP is going to continue to consider their options regarding a spin-off of the PC-building Personal Systems Group, the $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy is going to go through as planned and should close by the end of the year (it’s likely too late to call it off at this point), and HP is going to continue to consider how best to extract value from owning webOS.
On the surface, that sounds pretty much exactly like where we were at the start of the day – no changes in vision here, as Executive Chairman Ray Lane noted, Whitman was brought on as CEO due to execution, not strategy. We’re hopeless optimists here, so we’re taking note of the careful wording that Whitman used: “considering.”
Based on the market reaction to HP’s plan to split off the PSG, it’s clear that the shareholders didn’t like the decision. Whitman was purposefully careful in the words she used, hedging that HP is going to continue to evaluate to possibility of spinning off their computer building arm, but might decide against it. It’s been noted that the likes of Lenovo and Dell have been jumping all over HP’s business contracts in the wake of the uncertainty from Apotheker’s pronouncement about HP splitting itself.
Of course, Whitman can’t immediately come out and reverse course from HP’s announced strategy (we saw how well that worked when Apotheker did the same thing). There’s still chivalry between executives (unless Larry Ellison is involved), and even though Lane has admitted that Apotheker was not “the right guy to run this business,” that’s about as hard of language you’re going to get out of any leader at HP about the past year.
We’re reading between the lines here, sure, but where there’s change, there’s hope. Whitman underscored her commitment to HP’s hardware business, both the consumer and enterprise arms, and even though webOS didn’t come up outside of saying that things haven’t changed today from yesterday, we’re eternal optimists. And curmudgeons. It’s a conflicted existence (much like webOS’).
Regardless, Whitman said that the best thing they can do is to come to a quick decision on the spin-off, saying that this will not age like "fine wine." She said the decision will be influence by whether or not they believe the hardware business (which Lane said could carry the HP brand) could perform better for customers and shareholders on its own than within HP, and of course on how the shareholders feel about that decision (see: HPQ stock price). So while nothing but the person at the top has changed today, we're expect that we'll see more change coming down the pike in the short term. Buckle up, folks.