Talking tech since 2003

Yet another shakeup at the top of HP has cast a cloud over the no. 1 PC maker’s effort to turnaround its declining PC and printing business.

HP Chairman Ray Lane and two other directors resigned following an investor backlash over the company’s botched acquisition of UK software firm Autonomy.  The resignations are a delayed reaction to last year’s $8.8B write-down relating to the company’s $11B acquisition of Autonomy.  Activist investor Ralph Whitworth has been appointed Lane’s interim replacement.

Lane became chairman of HP in November 2010, about the same time that Leo Apotheker was appointed CEO.  Apotheker replaced Mark Hurd, who had left after a sex scandal.

Under Apotheker’s short and rocky tenure, HP acquired Autonomy, made a decision to sell HP’s PC business, which was later reversed, and scrapped its smartphone business. Apotheker was replaced within a year by current CEO Meg Whitman.

Messy acquisitions are nothing new for HP (think Palm and Compaq), but investors are losing patience with the company as it struggles to reinvent itself.  HP can’t seem to figure out whether it wants to be a services company or a hardware company.  CEO Meg Whitman seems to be pushing the company to refocus on enterprise services.  However, HP will have to compete with some well-established big hitters like IBM and EMC.

But while it’s touting its move toward services, HP is also busy releasing an inexpensive Android tablet to compete in the competitive and growing tablet market.  It seems like HP doesn’t want to miss any trend so it has its hands in everything without really focusing on one thing.

HP’s planned release of its first Android tablet, the Slate 7, was set for April, but according to Engadget, it has been pushed back to June.  By delaying the Slate 7, HP further slows its entry into a market that is constantly evolving.  For example, Google is likely to announce the follow-up to its Nexus 7 tablet in May, and Amazon is expected to update its Kindle Fire tablets later this year.

HP’s attempt to enter the tablet market the first time was not successful.  As you may recall, HP spent $1.2 billion for Palm, only to give up on its entire ecosystem just 57 days after launching the first webOS tablet.

If the company wants to reinvent itself, it probably needs some stable leadership at the top.  Plus, HP’s stock needs to gain some positive momentum because currently it trades below $22, well below its intrinsic value of $39.5, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.  Let’s hope Meg Whitman can keep this ship moving in the right direction or it could end up on the chopping block.

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