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HP customers seek stability with Whitman

In a roller-coaster year, HP customers seek product, management stability

By Agam Shah
September 23, 2011 04:12 PM ET

IDG News Service - Hewlett-Packard customers disconcerted by management shakeups and product strategy shifts are hoping for a stable future with Meg Whitman, who Thursday was appointed the company's new CEO.

Some customers who felt disrupted by recent changes at HP said they want Whitman to stabilize a chaotic situation by quickly and decisively communicating a product road map.

Whitman was appointed HP's CEO to replace Leo Apotheker, who was on the job for only about a year. During his tenure, Apotheker set the stage for HP to move away from PCs to focus on the more profitable enterprise hardware, software and services. In August the company said it would acquire software maker Autonomy for $10.2 billion, and also proposed selling or spinning off the Personal Systems Group (PSG), which deals in PCs and mobile devices. HP at the time said it would kill its line of WebOS smartphones and tablets, while retaining the software platform.

HP's board felt the need to bring in new leadership after spotting weaknesses in Apotheker's performance and operational execution, said Ray Lane, executive chairman at HP on a conference call to discuss Whitman's appointment. Board members were also "embarrassed" by the way Apotheker's team handled the August announcements.

The way HP communicated its plans to spin off or sell the PC business left many questions hanging, said Gerry McCartney, the CIO at Purdue University, which buys a range of HP products, including servers, desktops, laptops and office supplies. said. Purdue also has four of the Top 500 supercomputers in the world, two of which have been built by HP.

"I think the decision was poorly signaled. You could be watching the market and what's being said. We do that fairly well and we did not see this coming. When this was announced it was unsettling. You wonder 'what's coming next,'" McCartney said.

McCartney would ideally like the PC unit to remain a part of HP so every product comes from a single organization.

McCartney isn't rattled by the management shakeups, but leaders shape a company's direction, which helps shape product and purchase choices, McCartney said. He would like Whitman to bring stability and decisively communicate product plans for the next years so he can stabilize Purdue's internal IT road map.

"We buy the product set, we don't buy the CEO. To the extent HP is delivering services and products we are buying it's great. When they don't, that's not great," McCartney said.

Customers are still trying to digest the change in leadership, but hope for a stable product line, said Nina Buik, the chief marketing officer for Connect, an independent user community of HP's enterprise product customers. Connect has more than 50,000 members worldwide.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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