Still, though, there's nothing in the lab that's going to move the needle.
Plus, unlike the old days at Hewlett-Packard, there's not enough best-in-class there. The personal computer is a vicious commodity in which the value, or whatever is left of it, accrues to the disk drive companies, semiconductor companies and
, a very low-cost manufacturer, has now taken over as the largest PC maker. That bragging rights crown has been lost. Worse, though,
is out there slashing prices and depressing earnings, something it might not be able to do as a private company loaded with $13 billion in new debt.
In fact, the only standout area in this whole company remains printers, where business still declined but units went up, good news for a business that generated $5 billion in sales this quarter. Also, the software business actually increased 1%, although it only did $982 million in revenue.
So, I think with that hand, it is all back to the cost-cutting drawing board, as Whitman waits for a turn in worldwide GDP while searching for acquisitions to get some growth. Is she waiting for Godot? I think it's a little better than that because of the cash generation, but there's nothing in this current stable or in the new-term product flow that can turn around sales in this environment.
How about breaking up the company? Whitman said that was looked at before, and nothing's different. She doesn't believe that the sum of the parts is worth more than the whole, and the costs would jump if she tried to do it. Merging? With whom?
She could and will continue to buy back stock, enough to offset dilution. Also, the company raised the dividend 10% this year, and the board has room to do it again next year.
The simple set of facts, though, is that, unlike Schultz, who was able to turn around the stores to something that beckoned while expanding aggressively overseas, there's not a lot of product that, if turned around, would mean growth, and Hewlett-Packard is already everywhere. The IBM path is the hope, I believe, where Hewlett-Packard can turn into a value-added Internet software and security company that also has a decent printer division and a personal computer business that is outsourced to another company so that they are build dirt cheap and don't eat up capital.