HP Executive Drama Drags On

Steve Wildstrom / August 30th, 2011

After Wall Street Journal columnist Al Lewis’s scathing and all-too-true assessment of Hewlett-Packard’s year-long campaign of self-destruction gained wide attention, you’d think the company’s executives might just go to ground for a while. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

Todd Bradley photo

Todd Bradley (HP)

Todd Bradley, executive vice present in charge of HP’s soon to be spun off, sold, or dismembered Personal Systems Group, currently traveling in China,  gave an interview to Reuters that only adds to the sense of confusion and drift surrounding HP.

The interview makes it sound like Bradley, not surprisingly, is campaigning for a spinoff of PSG as an independent company headed by Todd Bradley. And that might very well be the best outcome for all concerned. But in the absence of any clear direction from CEO Lèo Apotheker or other top corporate officials, it sounds very much like Bradley is freelancing.

Even odder was his hint that a free-standing PSG might revive webOS and the abandoned TouchPad slate.  Quoting from the Reuters interview, by Terril Yue Jones:

Bradley said the company could resurrect HP’s short-lived TouchPad tablet computer, which was introduced on July 1 before being terminated only about six weeks later.

“Tablet computing is a segment of the market that’s relevant, absolutely,” Bradley said.

A standalone incarnation of HP’s PC business would be a full-line computer maker including ultrathin and all-in-one PCs.

My guess, based on nothing but some knowledge of the players and their public statements, is that Bradley was blindsided by Apotheker’s decision to unload PSG and particularly by the abrupt axing of webOS. Bradley and his top lieutenants had said repeatedly that they expected the fight to establish webOS was going to be a long slog and given that attitude, he would not have acquiesced killing the TouchPad just six weeks after it was launched.

Furthermore, the purchase of Palm barely 16 months ago was a strategic move designed in considerable part to give PSG, which has long existed primarily as a maker of hardware to run Microsoft software, some control over its own destiny. The strategy might not have worked, but it wasn’t even given enough time to fail.

The problem now is that the PSG, deeply unloved by top HP management, is an asset whose value can only decline as it sits in corporate limbo. And the hints of deep internal divisions over its future can only make matter worse.

 

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.
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