carly fiorina

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Meg Whitman has one of the toughest jobs in America. She runs HP and has spent the past year attempting to fix what is broken or stale.  The HP brand, known by all, owned by all, is experiencing stasis during one of the most exciting times in all of tech-dom.

The HP “Is-Does” is clouded; covered with a glauchoma-ed gauze. Amazingly, a couple of years ago, in the years following Carly Fiorina’s ouster, the company was humming along.  

The last great brand idea HP had was “Invent.”  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had lots of great ads over the years and many excellent agencies, but not much with brand ballast.  Invent was actually developed under Ms. Fiorina’s watch, however ended up being little more than an idea.  The company did not truly invest in or operationalize it, not the way Apple did. Or Google. Or the media socialists.

Stanford, MIT, Harvard and their dropouts don’t wake up aroused in the middle of the night thinking about working at HP.

27,000 layoffs in today’s flat world is not news to an up-and coming engineer – not the way the next gigatron device is.  HP has to marry the future with the current. We do need printers and tablets and PCs, but what will take back the hearts and minds of consumers and the next gen of consumers is packaged imagination. HP has work to do. Peace!   

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Leo Apotheker CEO of HP in a recent interview came off as a really smart, refreshingly calm captain of the tech industry.  You know the type, not smiling but almost, methodical and thoughtful in his delivery. Confident, not cocky. He knew his numbers, his trends, margins (everyone’s margins, in fact) and had a plan – a future-proof plan.  Use WebOs as the connective tissue for all computing and communication devices, bolstered by an enterprise cloud play.  Lovely.  Sprawling but lovely. Anyone smell an apple?

Those who read these musings know I am all about focus.  That’s the brand planner in me. HP has been anything but focused over the last 10 years. A printer company. The world’s leading PC company. Outsourcing. Big iron. Smart phones. Tabs. And operating systems. But let’s not forget in the post Carly Fiorina era, this company’s financials have been smoking. So the company’s scale has been a positive.

In a stunning announcement yesterday, Mr. Apotheker went on record as saying he wants to jettison tablets, smart phones and the WebOs as businesses, sell the PC business as a standalone unit and buy Autonomy Software for $10B. Normally, I would support this type of move, especially for a floundering company, but this almost feels other-worldly.

The reported for the New York Times Verne G. Kopytoff (also sounds fishy) used words to describe the PC move such as “dump” and “unload.” What PR person was handling this briefing?   

I understand the need for focus and I get the desire to increase margins through upping the software and cloud quotient, which by the way dials down the need for headcount, but this business move feels bi-polar. I wonder how the story is playing in the HP Personal Systems Group today?  Check the meds. Peace.

 

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HP. Beep-beep.

 

Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of EDS is beginning to make sense to me. The NY Times announced today that HP’s ProCurve corporate networking hardware unit is beginning to eat up some of Cisco System’s marketshare, albeit still with a long way to go (7% HP, 77% Cisco.)   It seems the EDS group may just act as a great sales conduit between its services customers and HP’s ProCurve networking gear. Services people, in order to be good, must really understand business and process and when they do it puts them in great position to recommend product. Accenture has made boat loads of money selling its own software recommended by its services people, why can’t HP can do the same?

Before Mark Hurd took over, HP was resting on laurels and ink cartridges. Its PC business was doing okay, but the company was quite sluggish. Carly Fiorina did not really understand the computer and peripherals business. HP just reported flat quarterly net income, but a revenue increase of 19%. In today’s economy? What does that tell you? It says “beep beep, company moving forward.”


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I can’t for the life of me figure out Hewlett-Packard. When you think they make a good move, it doesn’t work. When you think they make a bad move, earnings rise. You read about new marketing focus, bad press follows. You read about board tumult and unrest at the top, earnings kick butt.
 
This company is an enigma. Never a Carly Fiorina fan, and I actually did call the downturn under part of her watch, I must admit I may not have given her credit she deserved for long-term planning. Today, 70% of HP’s revenue comes from outside the U.S. – the source of a good part of today’s positive earnings report — which I am going to attribute to the Compaq purchase she engineered. 
 
HP is doing well in printers, brilliantly in computers (who knew?) and, I suspect, well in services. It’s going to take a Harvard B School case study for me to figure out this company, but at the moment I’m digging their staying power and blocking and tackling.
 

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