It's official. Léo Apotheker is out as Hewlett-Packard's chief executive, and former eBay boss and recent California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is in. HP shares lost half their value in a year under Apotheker, who took over after Mark Hurd left under an accounting/sex scandal. HP is right in the middle of a huge change — in August, it announced plans to shut down its mobile phone and tablet operations, and spin off its PC division to focus on business software. Whitman says she'll stick to Apotheker's strategy, although she plans to review it. What should she do to put the once high-flying company back on top? Here, four possibilities:
1. Abandon Apotheker's stunning change of course
Whitman's first move should be to "do Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard a solid," says Matt Burns at TechCrunch, and tear up Apotheker's plan to "abandon their original mission." Hewlett-Packard has always been a PC business — it just "lost its way" over the last year with Apotheker at the helm. Rekindling "a start-up feel throughout the massive HP machine" could turn HP back into the company it once was. Whitman should never forget HP "was founded in a Palo Alto garage."
2. Stick with Apotheker's plan — but execute it better
"Apotheker's goal of pushing HP into higher-margin enterprise software and cloud services remains valid," says Barb Darrow at GigaOm. Whitman just has to make sure she avoids the "communications and execution miscues" that got her predecessor canned. Announcing that she plans to reevaluate the details in Apotheker's "grand strategy" now gives her plenty of "wiggle room" if she wants to tweak the details.
3. Go green, Meg
Whitman's foray into politics showed that she's "clearly comfortable in the world of public policy," says James Farrar at ZDNet. And right now, the corporate world needs a jolt to find ways to make green products that are as good for business as they are for the environment. Whitman should use her unique background to "plow new furrows for sustainability and put the 'HP way' way out in front again."
4. Just draw a clear map — and follow it
If Whitman is going to turn around HP, she needs a "clear stategic plan," says Kara Swisher at All Things Digital. Yes, that means "reevaluating Apotheker's move to spin off its consumer PC business and shutter its webOS device development." But whatever she decides, the important thing is drawing up a plan that people can understand and support. That will go a long way toward "reassuring rattled employees and restoring morale," and "calming disgruntled shareholders" who just want to see the stock moving up again.