Can HP Do Anything Right?

 
 
By P. J. Connolly  |  Posted 2011-08-18
 
 
 

The announcement that HP is strangling its smartphone and tablet businesses before they can embarrass the company any further, and considering the sale of its PC operations, are a new low for the company. (At least from a business perspective; its longstanding problems with executive leadership would read like a script idea rejected by the writers of "The Office" for implausibility.)

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That's because deep down, HP wants to be IBM, but with a shorter acronym. The way to do that, obviously, is to stop making anything that might be used by consumers and double down on the consulting and services side of the operation. (The funny thing is that this plan could actually work.)The cutthroat margins of the PC business simply can't bring HP enough money to justify the effort and the resources required for its Personal Systems Group to stay competitive. Desktop computers have been a commodity for years, and the notebook market can pretty much be divided into Apple and not-Apple. It's pretty much impossible for HP to distinguish itself, no matter how many endorsements of the company's products come from "Project Runway" contestants.

As for mobile devices, well, let's just say that the TouchPad comes across as a sad knockoff of the iPad, and leave it at that. HP spent a great deal of money ($1.2 billion, in fact) to buy WebOS from Palm; after the way that deal has turned out, it would not surprise me to learn that the company is prepared to offer IBM $2 billion for its OS/2 business.

Has anything gone right for HP since it bought Compaq in 2002? If so, I can't think of what it would be. The company is pretty much a laughingstock at this point, and it's hard to imagine how it can recover its credibility from the debacle that its mobile device initiatives have become.

Memo to HP CEO Leo Apotheker and his inevitable replacement: the next time you want to flush $1 billion down the toilet, just give it to me instead. I'll come up with something creative for the invoice, and the kegger that I throw will be truly epic.

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