A Nine-Year RunAfter nine strong years as one of the best shows on NBC, the lights in "The Office" turn off for good tonight. HP's imprint on the show is easy to see. Each flat-screen monitor sported the logo. In a bit of irony, the show's mocking of office dysfunction and inefficiencies paralleled much of what has brought Hewlett-Packard investors plenty of angst. Said another way, HP has a history of dysfunction and waste that have been major catalysts to HP's decline and missed market opportunities. But it never had to be that way. Nine years ago, when "The Office" began to make its mark on workplace culture, there was also a mark on Hewlett-Packard in the name of Mark Hurd, who is now a president at rival Oracle ( ORCL).
The struggles HP has experienced since Hurd's departure highlight what I consider to have been the company's most egregious mistake -- letting Hurd go over allegations of sexual misconduct. Sex in "The Office" was an everyday happening -- in fact, it boosted moral even to those who weren't involved. For that matter, following Hurd's departure, HP's stock has been in a free fall. Take a look at the chart. The "BH" denotes the stock's performance before Hurd, the "WH" denotes his tenure, while the "AH" is the stock's performance after his departure.
Essentially, had HP handled this situation differently, who knows where the company would have been today? Maybe Autonomy would have happened and maybe it wouldn't. The fates of HP's biggest rivals today could have taken different paths. Apple ( AAPL) still would have been Apple. But I don't think for a second that HP's competitive deficit would have been so significant as it is today. Hurd's not coming back, regardless of what I think. Although Whitman seems to be keeping a good pulse at HP today, the company still faces major hurdles going forward. To her credit, it does appear that her restructuring moves are working. I just don't think it makes HP any more viable. PCs are not making a comeback and the company still has no meaningful mobile strategy. Making matters worse, while Hewlett-Packard is busy trying to stop its bleeding, Cisco ( CSCO) and Oracle are making investments into new end-markets. This means regardless of the any progress seen in HP, the company will still be behind. The good news is that with cash flow jumping up 115% in the first quarter to $2.6 billion, HP does not look like a company ready to be cast off to the glue factory. But the lights in the office are dimming. At the time of publication the author had a position in AAPL. Follow @saintssense This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.