Adam Hartung at Forbes on the current state of Hewlett-Packard, and how current CEO Meg Whitman won’t be able to fix it:
Fixing HP requires understanding what went wrong at HP. Simply, Carly Fiorina took a company long on innovation and new product development and turned it into the most outdated industrial-era sort of company. Rather than having HP pursue new technologies and products in the development of new markets, like the company had done since its founding creating the market for electronic testing equipment, she plunged HP into a generic manufacturing war.
Pursuing the PC business Ms. Fiorina gave up R&D in favor of adopting the R&D of Microsoft, Intel and others while spending management resources, and money, on cost management. PCs offered no differentiation, and HP was plunged into a gladiator war with Dell, Lenovo and others to make ever cheaper, undifferentiated machines. The strategy was entirely based upon obtaining volume to make money, at a time when anyone could buy manufacturing scale with a phone call to a plethora of Asian suppliers.
Quickly the Board realized this was a cutthroat business primarily requiring supply chain skills, so they dumped Ms. Fiorina in favor of Mr. Hurd. He was relentless in his ability to apply industrial-era tactics at HP, drastically cutting R&D, new product development, marketing and sales as well as fixating on matching the supply chain savings of companies like Dell in manufacturing, and WalMart in retail distribution.
HP has many problems, but at the top of this list: They make products people don’t want. Buying an HP product is a consolation prize for most, a compromised decision between upfront costs and what you need to get a task done. The last time someone loved an HP device was when they “made” iPods.