The executive shakeup at Hewlett-Packard is continuing, with Shane Robison, an 11-year veteran of the tech giant and a member of the company’s Executive Council, retiring after this month.
HP announced Oct. 20 that Robison, who joined HP from Compaq and was a key figure behind the controversial merger of the two PC giants, will retire effective Nov. 1. He is an executive vice president and HP’s chief strategy and technology officer, and has been an important figure in molding HP’s technology direction, steering how the company spent its R&D dollars and spearheading many of the vendor’s largest acquisitions, including EDC, 3Com, Opsware and Mercury Interactive.
HP also announced that the company is phasing out the role of chief strategy and technology officer, opting instead to bring strategy and R&D “closer to the company’s business,” HP said in a statement.
The announcement of Robison’s impending retirement comes during a turbulent time for HP. New CEO Meg Whitman is in the processing of reassessing the company’s direction after taking over from her predecessor, Leo Apotheker, who was in the job for less than a year. Apotheker’s tenure was marked by disappointing financial forecasts, falling stock prices and jarring changes of direction in the vendor’s strategy.
For example, less than a year after buying Palm for $1.2 billion and gaining the webOS mobile operating system, HP rolled out its webOS-based TouchPad tablet, and talked up bringing the OS to other devices, from smartphones to PCs. However, after a few weeks of disappointing sales, HP not only discontinued the TouchPad, but all webOS-based devices. Robison reportedly had been put in charge of webOS following Apotheker’s decision to cut webOS-based devices.
Apotheker also announced plans to spin off HP’s market-leading PC business in an effort to focus more effort and money into building the company’s enterprise software and services capabilities.
Whitman reportedly is reconsidering whether HP will retain the PC business, and has said she hopes to make a final decision sometime this month.
Whitman, who has been on HP’s board of directors since January, praised Robison’s work at the company.
“Shane has been a powerful innovator for our business groups and other corporate divisions,” she said. “His passion for research and development has ensured that innovation continues at HP.”
HP has had its share of high-profile acquisitions since the controversial Compaq deal, which propelled HP into the position of the world’s top PC maker, but also had some critics saying it exposed HP too much to what has become a rapidly commoditized, low-margin market.
HP was able to bulk up its services capabilities and compete more closely with IBM in that area by buying EDC (now called HP Enterprise Services) in 2008 for $13.9 billion, and last year bolstered its networking portfolio with its $2.7 billion purchase of 3Com. That deal was designed to help HP build out its data center solutions offerings and compete more closely with the likes of IBM, Cisco Systems and Dell.
Most recently, as part of the announcements regarding webOS and the PC business, HP executives said they were buying software firm Autonomy for $10 billion, a move that drew criticism from some analysts and shareholders.