Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Most stories are 'mostly' right

It's always amusing to see the plethora of analysts jump in when there's blood in the water.  Factoids get smeared a bit, and opinions rage.  So it was yesterday with the Meg Whitman "dismisses' Todd Bradley stories.  Below is a good example, along with my red-lined comments:

HP Repurposes PC, Printer Division Head Todd Bradley

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2013-06-18   eWeek

Hewlett-Packard made yet another high-level administration change June 18 when it repurposed the head of its struggling personal computing and printing divisions, Todd Bradley, and assigned him to handle sales strategies in China.  Quick: aside from the disastrous Board of Directors vote and shuffling, name three recent 'high-level administrative changes' since 2012...

In his place, HP named a former key executive of Lenovo and Acer, Dion Weisler, currently senior vice president for HP in the Asia-Pacific and Japan. Lenovo (No. 1) and Acer (No. 4) are currently among the world's leaders in laptop market share.

Weisler, who has many years more experience in the laptop business than Bradley, will become executive vice president of Personal and Printing Systems at HP. He will report to Whitman and join the company's executive council.

Weisler joined HP in January 2012 and has 23 years of experience in the IT industry, mostly in mobile PCs. Prior to joining HP, Weisler was vice president and chief operating officer of Lenovo's Product and Mobile Internet Digital Home Groups. Recall that last year Lenovo wrested PC leadership from HP.  But maybe we should also ask, "why did Weisler leave Lenovo?"  Before that, he ran Lenovo's businesses in Korea, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Australia and New Zealand. 

Officially, Bradley—who was CEO of Palm Computing when HP acquired the mobile device company in 2010 for $1.2 billion—will have the title of executive vice president of strategic growth initiatives.  This of course is NOT true, Bradley was CEO of PalmOne in 2005, when it was failing badly; Hurd recruited him to set up a separate HP PC group after Carly had merged PCs and printers because of the common dealer channel.  It was five years later, with an intermediate company sale of Palm to a Venture Capital group who brought in new management (and Jon Rubinstein as CEO), who subsequently sold a totally restructured Palm to HP in 2010.

Bradley twice was on the short list of candidates to become HP's CEO in the last three years, but instead the board of directors in 2010 selected Leo Apotheker (previously with SAP) to replace Mark Hurd and in 2011 Meg Whitman (formerly of eBay) to replace Apotheker.  No one has speculated in the past two days on why Bradley was passed over each time; why not?  Could be his management style, which has been described as "mostly Hurd, hardly consensus".  

Bradley will work directly with CEO and President Meg Whitman to improve HP's business in China and extend the company's channel partner relationships around the world.  Bradley does have credibility in China; I experienced this firsthand both with HP China management and with others on my Beijing trip last year.

"There's nothing more important to HP than our channel partners and the future of our business in China,' Whitman said in a press statement. "I've asked Todd to use his expertise to focus on these areas. I've also asked him to study the landscape of small companies and startups that could partner with HP to spur growth."

Analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research was candid about the move by HP.
"Removal of Todd Bradley from PSG is very welcome news for Investors. Todd Bradley had made a series of strategic mistakes; his departure should have happened long before," Chowdhry told eWEEK via email.

"Bradley killed Palm WebOS, one of the best mobile OSes, which had a very good chance of being the second player in mobile space. (Apple) iOS7 copies some of the critical features that Palm WebOS had 3 years back."  This is an unfair charge.  Leo essentially killed Palm WebOS when he shot the first TouchPad; Leo reportedly only told Bradley he was shooting the TouchPad in the eleventh hour.   And other HP groups (especially the Peripherals group) gave WebOS at best lackluster support; this in part (I speculate) led to Meg merging Peripherals and PCs under Bradley last year.

Bradley made a "wrong decision to go with Windows 8 Mobile for Tablets, which was dead-on-departure," Chowdhry wrote.  This was a political decision, one of those tough ones where you're between a rock and a hard place.  Windows was HP's only strategic bet in PCs, and with the death of WebOS, they had only two options.  Why not bet on Microsoft, aside from the fact that it, like Intel, had forfeited every chance for seven years to score in mobile?  To bet on Android was as bad then as it is today; "what if" Microsoft had finally gotten it right?  "Today, HP does not have a mobile strategy; being a reseller of Windows Phone 8 or Android is not a winning strategy.  This is the key point; HP used to make it on their own products, not on being a reseller.  Even Meg said this in public a few weeks ago, in her London interview; see my post :Tough BBC interview for Meg" on April 12.

"Then Todd Bradley decided to go with Android tablets, which will also likely be dead-on-departure. There is no way HP can win against other Android tablets from Acer, Asus, Samsung and Lenovo."
Again, something Meg noted in that propitious London interview

Chowdhry contended that on Todd Bradley's watch, HP "missed completely on the shifts within the industry. He continued to run HP PSG [Personal Systems Group] as if it was [the] 1990s, focusing wrongly on supply chain, while the industry was going toward asymmetric pricing models and innovation."  This is trenchant, perhaps the best single observation in the entire stream of stories.


CJ said...

Thanks for your attention to this story. Outside of a date error (2005 for 2010, which I fixed), there is nothing to defend here. On high-level admin changes? Um, let's see: How about the CEO revolving door, for starters. Many board-level changes. Three more people coming onto the board today (July 15), for another example. Red-line it all you like, it's a free country, thankfully. Thanks for reading eWEEK!


chuck said...

Thanks for the reply! The blog and every story has noted the CEO revolving door, and also the Board machinations, so in fairness I didn't think you meant them.

I have always used "high-level administrative" to mean people working for the CEO, ala Bradley or one step lower, and I assumed that was the meaning in your article as well. No one on the Board adminsters anything, esp. at this company, and some might aver that the CEOs haven't either.

The statement you made is of course quite true, and it's just that 'no one' can name them below CEO level usually. Prith Banerjee comes to mind, as does Shane Dickey, and perhaps Phil McKinney. So, of course, could Ann Livermore -- so in a sense I was hopeful someone might have those names at the ready. Not true apparently, even from the private emails I get.

eWeek and your coverage are wonderful in general; I just couldn't resist poking a little fun.