Prediction: Meg Whitman Lasts at HP 12 Months Max

By Now you know Meg Whitman is replacing Léo Apotheker as CEO of HP. Look, I personally like Meg Whitman – she is dynamic, energetic and ran eBay for a good while. Two of the major products under her were the auction site with the same name goggas the company and PayPal. Effectively she managed two monopolies. And if monopoly is too strong a word – let’s say they were super-dominant companies with entrenched market positions.

eBay somehow lost share to Amazon during her tenure and the relationship with sellers on the site wasn’t the smoothest. Let’s say she was an adequate leader in a space where companies like Google were growing and adding new and exciting services continually. She buttoned down some processes and improved eBay over the years but the sense was she could always be doing better.

PayPal did effectively fight off a challenge from Google Payments but again, the company was entrenched and switching payment companies was probably harder for consumers to do than Google expected. Still, Whitman does deserve credit for this accomplishment – dealing with Google as a new competitor and winning quickly is something you should highlight on your resume.

The challenge I have with Whitman is the post-Skype-eBay integration which never happened. Moreover there was that whole debacle where eBay purchased Skype but somehow forgot to buy the underlying technology Joltid which allowed it to work. Perhaps the most amazing move of all was spinning off the company to private equity which later sold Skype to Microsoft leaving billions on the table for eBay shareholders.

I wrote years back about the lack of integration at eBay – under Whitman – eBay didn’t even use Skype itself in its customer service operations. This should have been the first move.

HP is in major flux, TMC’s Peter Bernstein details all the CEOs the company has had recently and further goes on to remind us that HP needs an identity. Moreover, as Peter and I discussed moments ago, in an increasingly ecosystem-centric world, HP has no ecosystem. Unfortunately, purveying printer ink does not an ecosystem make.

But more importantly the HP board is a mess – a joke on Wall Street. A group of kindergarteners keep secrets better. Let’s just say they seem to have a case of trade secret Tourette syndrome. And who knows what is going to happen to the company’s PC customers – many are defecting because they have no clue who will end up owning this business.

To make matters worse, Oracle is a vicious competitor with its sights set squarely on the company. And Oracle is making money hand over fist selling software and services. HP – to compete effectively will have to embark on a software buying spree of its own which of course has already begun with the announced acquisition of Autonomy.

But wait a second, if Whitman couldn’t do the basics when integrating Skype into eBay, how will she not only determine the direction of the corporation, which companies to purchase but how to best integrate them?

Hopefully there is someone else who can take on these tasks. It will take about 12 months for the board to figure this problem out – worst case is six months. Hopefully, for the sake of customers and shareholders I am wrong.

Update: Here is a good read from Saj Karsan at Seeking Alpha on some other challenges Whitman had in returning value for shareholders at eBay.

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