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What does HP think it's doing?

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | April 24, 2015
Winston Churchill once said of Russia, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." Now, I don't deal with international politics. I just write about technology. But when I've looked at HP lately I've been left thinking of its strategy as, well, "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

It's not just the cloud. I really don't know what to make of many of HP's recent moves.

It's been eight months now since HP announced it was going to split itself into two. You'd think by now we'd be closer to Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, with its enterprise hardware, software, cloud and services business, and HP Inc., with PCs and printers. Funny, I don't see many signs that that's actually happening.

All of this reminds me of 2011, when HP was going to bail out on the PC. That was at the same time that HP had made a 180-degree turn and left the webOS tablet and smartphone business. We had every reason to believe that there would be no more HP PCs. Instead, as Michael Dell was quick to jab, "If HP spins off their PC business ... maybe they will call it Compaq?"

It was funny then, but HP's constant shift of focus isn't funny anymore.

In the last five years, HP has had four CEOs. Mark Hurd, Cathie Lesjak, Leo Apotheker and Meg Whitman. That's too many.

Except that (please, don't hit me) it might be time for yet another CEO. I was never impressed with how Whitman handled eBay's acquisition of PayPal back in 2002. And what was the reasoning behind eBay paying $2.6 billion for Skype?

Both she and HP are back to making odd acquisitions. The company still doesn't seem to know if it wants to be one business or two. And there seems to be confusion in the ranks about exactly what role HP plans for its cloud offerings.

HP, enough of buying companies and toying with attention-grabbing stratagems like splitting up. What you really need is to settle on one strategic plan and follow it. Stop being a mystery, HP. Your customers and stockholders will both appreciate it.


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