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For H-P Hot Seat, Investors Want an Innovator

PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Following Mark Hurd's stunning departure from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) on Friday, who will be next to lead Silicon Valley's most fabled garage venture?

As a list of familiar Valley executives circulates inside Wall Street's crystal ball, one thing is for sure: Analysts and investors want someone who can convince them of an H-P growth story, one of the few things Hurd, who dazzled Wall Street with intense efficiency-promoting measures, was never able to do.

>>Video: Hold Nose, Buy Hewlett-Packard

"We believe Mark Hurd was a great cost cutter and we are disappointed that he is gone, but he was having difficulty with investors in handing off the H-P story to one of growth ... " wrote Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes in a note Monday.

Indeed, while the list of strategic acquisitions blossomed under Hurd -- Mercury Interactive, Electronic Data Systems and Palm, to name a few -- analysts feel that few of them showed enough growth once situated under the H-P umbrella.

"H-P has become the Wal-Mart of IT," said a former Mercury/H-P vice president who asked not to be named. "They don't cater to a strategic IT agenda -- they're more about low costs."

To that end, tech watchers see H-P's current situation as a great thing; an opportunity to make inroads necessary to better position the behemoth in exciting, growing markets -- if its board hires the right person.

"What they really need is someone who can bring the sizzle back into H-P, who can market new products," said David Harap, managing director in the Austin, Texas office of Stanton Chase International, an executive recruiting firm. "H-P is going to be looking for a visionary, someone who can create buzz to help challenge Apple (AAPL - Get Report)."

The company and its board have been extremely tight-lipped about the search, which is being conducted by a four-person committee led by board member and renowned Internet investor/Net-scapee Marc Andreessen. "We don't have a lot to say," said Andreessen on Friday's investor call when asked about what character and business-leading traits they were seeking. "We want to make sure we get the right CEO; we're looking at both internal and external candidates."

Likewise, an H-P spokesperson declined to comment on the committee's progress on Monday.
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