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Meg Whitman: HP's Surprise Turnaround Star

Stocks in this article: HPQ EBAY DELL CSCO AAPL

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Analysts, however, warn that, like Rome, the new HP won't be built in a day.

"Whitman appears to be taking the appropriate actions, in our view, but we don't expect to see a fundamental inflection point in the near term," explained Jayson Noland, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, in a note released on Thursday. "Whitman named cloud, big data and security as areas of strategic investment -- we see these areas as offering attractive growth, but execution matters given the level of competition."

Whitman herself acknowledges that HP's overhaul won't happen overnight. "I would say that we're at the beginning," she told CNBC on Thursday, adding that the company is about 10% to 15% down its turnaround path.

Nonetheless, Whitman deserves credit for halting the company's slide. Like a supertanker attempting a u-turn, long-term improvements will not happen immediately, although investors should be heartened by Whitman's first eight months in the job.

"The key takeaway is that HP's turnaround efforts appear to be progressing better than expected," explained Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a note. "We believe HP has become a balance sheet story where improvements the company makes will likely be the biggest catalyst to shares as opposed to top-line growth, where expectations are fairly low."

Nonetheless, there are plenty of gaps in HP's product portfolio. Whitman has admitted that the company has not yet resolved its smartphone strategy, and, even with a Microsoft (MSFT) Windows 8 tablet planned for the back-to-school season, HP still needs to find a way to seriously compete with Apple's (AAPL) iPad.

Overall, though, Whitman deserves credit for stopping the rot at HP and laying the foundation for recovery.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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