New HP CEO: Apple Could Lead PCs in 2012

Meg Whitman, the new CEO of HP, conceded that if you include tablets, Apple could lead HP in personal computer unit sales in 2012, but she also expects that HP will regain the lead in 2013. With a new commitment to the personal computer market, Mrs. Whitman is looking at the long-term for the future of HP

HP CEO Meg Whitman

HP CEO Meg Whitman
Photo by Max Morse

HP might be second only to Netflix for corporate upheavals in the last six months. In August, the previous CEO, Leo Apothekar, announced that HP would be getting out of the PC business, discontinuing the recently released TouchPad, and dropping WebOS. Mr. Apothekar was dismissed from HP short thereafter, having only served 11 months at the company. Mrs. Whitman, hot off a losing campaign to be govenor of California, was soon named as his replacement.

Perhaps it is because of this upheaval that Mrs. Whitman is taking a longer-term view for the company. In an interview with the French language, she acknowledged the 70 year history of HP and said her goal is to position HP for the next 70 years. She said she understood that changes will take a few years and expects HP to be a much stronger company five years from now. The executive will also be taking a conservative view of acquisitions in the near term, recognizing that this area too would benefit from stability more than risky growth.

HP is expected to reenter the tablet market in 2012 with the Slate 2. This device will use the Windows 8 operating system instead of the nearly defunct WebOS that the TouchPad used—the fate of WebOS is supposed to be decided within the next two weeks. The company has already recommitted to the PC market, and will continue to be active in the hardware and services markets. Whitman, in her short tenure, has already addressed many of the areas of concern that the market had with HP.

As far as competition with Apple goes, Mrs. Whitman isn’t the first to express confusion about whether or not iPads and other tablets should be counted as PCs, but it is a sign of respect for Apple as a competitor that she is willing to conced the iPad as playing a role in helping Apple’s growth as a maker of computers.