Over the past 12 months, HP has had its reputation shoved into the mud, received a swift kick to its soft underside, and then pulled to its feet only to have tar poured on top of the mud and layered with feathers to boot.
Going forward, CEO Meg Whitman will have to overcome all of the company's public-perception problems while simultaneously refocusing the tech bellwether and reinstilling confidence in shareholders. She'll need to impress enterprise customers that Dell (NAS: DELL) has been trying to win amid the turmoil and try to gain re-entry back into the mobile party. (One can only hope HP got its hand stamped before walking out the gate the first time).
Whitman has said the company will be "getting back to business fundamentals" and will need to "fix our execution challenges." She wants to rebuild the balance sheet, and don't expect any big mergers or acquisitions. The next year looks "tough" to her, and rightly so, as turning around a company as large as HP takes time.
She has conceded that Apple (NAS: AAPL) may blow past HP in 2012, as the world's top PC maker but that 2013 will be HP's time to shine. If you count the iPad as a computer, the Mac maker is set to dethrone HP. With the resurrection of webOS as an open-source platform and the distinct possibility that HP will reboot tablet hardware, the company will confront Google Android tablet makers again in some form or fashion next year.
Even though Whitman nixed most of her predecessor's moves, she agrees with Leo Apotheker in that HP needs to focus more on software in the coming year, competing more directly with other enterprise-software giants such as IBM (NYS: IBM) and Oracle (NAS: ORCL) . She decidedly doesn't want to transform HP into a software company, as Apotheker was clearly trying to do, but rather wants to build up the software segment as a complement for customers.
Whitman has her work cut out for her but has admitted that 2012 is not the year that HP investors should be looking forward to.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Oracle, Google, and IBM. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, and Dell and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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