updated 05:35 pm EDT, Thu September 22, 2011
HP not yet reversing PC and webOS plans
HP is still considering spinning out or selling its PC business after the forced exit of Leo Apotheker, new CEO Meg Whitman said. During a conference call to explain the move, she said the company was still evaluating what it would do with the Personal Systems Group and would have a decision back by the promised end-of-year time frame, "if not sooner." She was still supportive of HP's decision that day, including to drop webOS hardware and to buy Autonomy for $10 billion, but she also promised a review.
"I will step back and take a hard look at this," Whitman said.
In explaining the decision to appoint a permanent CEO so soon as a replacement, new executive chairman Ray Lane said the company already had a recent examination of candidates from last year but believed the best choice would come from inside. He himself had been considered for an interim role. The company had already been looking at ousting Apotheker weeks ago, and Lane helped pick Whitman after getting an outline of what she would do as company leader.
Lane was also emphatic that the board of directors was very different than it was last year. Eight new members, five of which Lane appointed himself, were involved.
Apotheker was out because he didn't understand the "deep dynamics" of the business to follow through on strategy, Lane added. The top-level designs were believed to be right, but he had also failed to properly communicate what it was trying to do.
The word of continued plans to distance itself from PCs and webOS hardware isn't likely to change doubts lingering over their fate. Whitman acknowledged this but said the solution was to get to a decision on the Personal Systems Group as quickly as possible, not to necessarily reverse the choice. She didn't say whether any such speed would come with webOS hardware, although over 500 job cuts may make the departure difficult to reverse.
Lane cast it as a matter of deciding whether the PC business could be stronger on the inside or outside; if it was stronger inside, it would stay inside, he said. Rivals are nonetheless likely to be eager for the news in knowing that HP's PCs could weaken during the next few months and that webOS is still not a threat.