June 19 (gawd, where does the time go) Ray Lane came for a conversation with the CTO Forum, run by Basheer Janjua in conjunction with the Stanford Graduate Business School. Basheer invited me to do two things -- pass out and sign the HP book to the 65 attendees (a lot of hand-cramps from the scribbles), and a chance to pose some questions from the 'head table' to Ray.
Lane did a very credible job in my book. As the ex-leader of Oracle's business strategy, before he ran afoul of Larry Ellison's fabled temper, Ray has a long-time pedigree in the Valley. As chairman now of HP, he has been variously visible and quiotable for the past couple of years, including the debacle around hiring and then firing Leo Apotheker, and replacing him with old friend Meg Whitman.
As readers of this long-running blog know, I've offered free form advice to and about HP leadership in recent years, including early observations on both Lane and Whitman. Having now been in more than one meeting 'up close and personal', I can also say without reservation that they seem to me to be superb students of HP at this point, and working very hard AND very smartly on what I consider "the right issues". Boy, I'll bet some of you don't expect me to be saying that!
So, here it is, unequivicably. HP is in better hands right now than anytime since John Young in terms of strategic understanding and focused direction. No one will ever top Lew Platt for "HP WAY" kinds of things, but this team seems much more in tune with the historic understanding of the dignity and worth of individuals than all but Lew and the founders, may they all rest in peace.
So, will the stock price recover? Will HP once again be the ascendant company in the Valley? Will they ever again create a product or service that the world says "WOW!"? And of course the answer must be muted. Camelot never returned to its former glory once Geneviere and Lancelot betrayed King Arthur; the industry is too diverse and complex logically to expect any company to lead as HP once did (and Apple and Google do today). But yes, the underlying fundamentals at HP are sound, and the stock price will again reflect the sensible value of the company, and the errant ways of the leadership foibles may well be behind us. Personal opinion.
Wouldn't it be nice, though, to imagine just one blockbuster product again?