Steve Jobs on Hewlett Packard

The bits and pieces of Steve Jobs's upcoming biography that have been coming out have been fascinating. One particular one that really rips me up is his rebuke of the board of directors of Hewlett Packard, and in particular, their leadership choices. I absolutely agree with Jobs. It's hard to describe the board's CEO choices as anything but completely insane. They've gone from one really awful choice to another. Hiring a CEO is a tricky thing, it often goes awry under the best of circumstances. But they seem to be acting so stupidly that they must be actively trying to tank the company. My wife worked for HP under Mark Hurd in the headquarters complex: the place got totally ground up. Apotheker did not understand any of HP's strengths and tried to turn it into something he was familiar with: a weak shadow of Oracle and IBM, which it had almost no basis to build from. What will Meg Whitman do? Try to turn it into an auction house? The board should fire themselves and put in place someone who knows how to build and run a systems company. There aren't many around, but they exist. The board needs to think in terms of investing in building HP up to being a strong and vibrant company. Not stripping it down into something that can be milked of its last pennies.

Who would I pick? I'm not completely sure, but the top of my list is not too surprising: Scott McNealy. Wall Street and the analysts hate him, having unfairly pilloried him for years. I've got my own set of issues with him, but he could drive HP to being incredible again. It's a world he understands better that anyone else on the planet. HP used to be Sun's opponent, but I doubt that this would be a problem for Scott: he's hugely into team sports and knows that whatever the color of the shirt you wear during the game, you play to win.

October 22, 2011