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On a New Road

Steve Jobs on Hewlett PackardSaturday October 22, 2011
The bits and pieces of Steve Jobs's upcoming biography that have been coming out have been fascinating. One particular one that really rips me up is his rebuke of the board of directors of Hewlett Packard, and in particular, their leadership choices. I absolutely agree with Jobs. It's hard to describe the board's CEO choices as anything but completely insane. They've gone from one really awful choice to another. Hiring a CEO is a tricky thing, it often goes awry under the best of circumstances. But they seem to be acting so stupidly that they must be actively trying to tank the company. My wife worked for HP under Mark Hurd in the headquarters complex: the place got totally ground up. Apotheker did not understand any of HP's strengths and tried to turn it into something he was familiar with: a weak shadow of Oracle and IBM, which it had almost no basis to build from. What will Meg Whitman do? Try to turn it into an auction house? The board should fire themselves and put in place someone who knows how to build and run a systems company. There aren't many around, but they exist. The board needs to think in terms of investing in building HP up to being a strong and vibrant company. Not stripping it down into something that can be milked of its last pennies.

Who would I pick? I'm not completely sure, but the top of my list is not too surprising: Scott McNealy. Wall Street and the analysts hate him, having unfairly pilloried him for years. I've got my own set of issues with him, but he could drive HP to being incredible again. It's a world he understands better that anyone else on the planet. HP used to be Sun's opponent, but I doubt that this would be a problem for Scott: he's hugely into team sports and knows that whatever the color of the shirt you wear during the game, you play to win.

Comments:

I'm sorry but isn't Scott the man who drived Sun to be bought fron Oracle? Do you think that Scott made a good job in Sun? If yes, why Sun is in the history books now? If yes, why JavaME completely vanished from the mobile market when you had the 99% of the mobile market? Hoping to get some answers :)

Posted by Davide Perini on October 23, 2011 at 09:55 AM PDT #

True, Walter Hewlett was right. HP should have never purchased Compaq. Those late 90s, early 00s decisions to spin-off Agilent and double down on Wintel to the detriment of their platforms and stack were the start of their problems. It left them at the mercy of Microsoft and Oracle. McNealy would have been a better choice. I don't know if he would have been the best choice. There had to someone out there. Rod Adkins from IBM was apparently in consideration. Maybe Scott Forstall from Apple... maybe, crazy idea, someone from HP.

Posted by Adam on October 23, 2011 at 04:04 PM PDT #

Whoever they chose was going to have a nearly impossible task in trying to restart HP as a systems company. Systems meaning software coupled with hardware fit to purpose (Apple, classic IBM definition). As a result of 10 plus years of underinvestment, HP-UX and the other legacy proprietary platforms (VMS and NonStop) are dead in the water, obviously with a little help from Oracle. There is just no ISV support. Ironically, IBM SWG is the last stack provider in the HP Integrity space, but who is going to purchase an HP-UX box for DB2 and WebSphere. Storage systems are at the point of a complete restart. They under-invested in DEC EVA to the point of irrelevance. HP XP is just HDS IP. They are now presumably ditching both of those lines in favor of 3PAR.

Posted by 173.158.190.78 on October 23, 2011 at 04:06 PM PDT #

What an interesting choice. I would never have thought of Scott since, after Sun, I thought he would find it hard to work anywhere else sufficiently interesting for him. Yet, your suggestion has a bucket-load of merit in it. At least he understands how you might run a system company which Hurd might have managed but Apotheker was clearly not up to the job. I cannot see why you would turn your back on everything that made you successful, everything that got you to the size you are today, only to try something totally different for which no pre-existing indicator of success could possibly exists. Madness! But Scott would be a _very_ impressive choice as the next HP CEO. The only issue is that the board is so limited in its thinking that it is unlikely to ever approach him.

Posted by Gordon J Milne on October 23, 2011 at 05:11 PM PDT #

Seriously? After Scott Mc Nealy slowly drove Sun into the ground because of his personal obsessions with Microsoft and then handed out a spiraling down Sun to a CEO who's even more incompetent than he was? I don't think you have a very objective view of Mc Nealy.

Posted by Steve on October 23, 2011 at 07:19 PM PDT #

I doubt Scott would touch the HP job. Besides, watching Meg trying to bring order to chaos is going to be good theater whatever the final result.

Posted by Jon on October 25, 2011 at 03:38 AM PDT #

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