Whitman wants HP's drama to be over

HP's newly installed chief executive, Meg Whitman, has given a brief keynote at HP Discover in Vienna that ackowledged the company's problems and outlined a new strategy
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

HP's new chief executive, Meg Whitman, has acknowledged the company's problems and says she is committed to keeping it on an even keel in the future in her first keynote speech.

Meg Whitman HP CEO

HP boss Meg Whitman has admitted that the company's strategy confused a lot of people in the last year, during a keynote at HP Discover in Vienna. Photo credit: Jack Clark

Whitman's strategy, unveiled at HP Discover in Vienna on Tuesday, is to make sure HP is seen as reliable and that it focuses on its core businesses.

"I want to get the HP drama out of the headlines," Whitman said. "This kind of chief-executive transformation is very hard — it's hard on employees, it's hard on customers."

I think over the last year we confused some people over who we are as a company.
– Meg Whitman, HP

HP sacked former chief executive Leo Apotheker in October, just under a year after he took over from Mark Hurd, after he had said he might or might not sell the company's Personal Systems Group, which makes consumer devices and computers. He also discontinued all devices based on HP's mobile operating system, WebOS, six months after the company had said it would become HP's universal platform.

This lack of clarity led to a 44-percent drop in the company's share price. The company reported a 91-percent fall in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011.

HP's server business has also suffered, with Gartner figures released on Tuesday showing a year-on-year decline of 3.1 percent in server market share for the third quarter of 2011. Though it was still the largest vendor by shipments the company lost ground to Dell, up 3.2 percent in second place.

"I think over the last year we confused some people over who we are as a company," Whitman said. 

Focus on the core

HP will put its problems behind it and focus on core competencies, she said. Rival Cisco recently made a similar retrenchment around core product lines, led by chief executive John Chambers. Cisco is doing this to regain credibility after seeming a bit unfocused, Chambers has said.

"The number one question I get now is who is HP, what is your strategy going forward?" Whitman said. "HP is the world's largest provider of information technology infrastructure, software, services and solutions to individuals and organisations of all sizes."

HP's areas of focus are now converged infrastructure, application transformation, enterprise security, information optimisation and hybrid delivery, she said. 

Though Whitman spent much of the keynote acknowledging the company's troubles, she did also praise some of the things, such as the Autonomy acquisition, that happened under Apotheker's tenure, while seeking to put her own strategic angle on the news.

"We are not in the software business to transform HP into a software company," she said. "We help manage heterogeneous environments... I am very excited about Autonomy joining the HP family, [it will] solve a whole host of information management problems."

She also pointed to HP's ARM-based server scheme, codenamed Project Moonshot, as a sign that the company is still capable of innovating. "It's meaningful and exciting and HP is first," she said. "We're going to drive more market-leading innovation."

Whitman left the stage after 20 minutes. "I believe wholeheartedly in HP," she said. 

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