/// Hewlett-Packard: One Messy Piece of Business Cleared Up, Many to Go
“Glad that long national nightmare is over.” That was the comment — paraphrased from Gerald Ford’s inaugural address upon the close of the Nixon presidency — that I received in an email from an industry source on Friday. The quote was sent in reference to the now-concluded business surrounding Hewlett-Packard’s exploration of “strategic options” concerning its Personal Systems Group. Now that HP CEO Meg Whitman has concluded that the company is stronger with PCs than without them , there remains a fair bit of unfinished business from the dog’s breakfast of changes announced on Aug. 18 . First and foremost are the questions about the future — or lack thereof — of HP’s webOS business. The only thing we know for certain is that HP is out of the business of hardware that runs the operating system it picked up in last year’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm . HP killed that business after sales of its TouchPad tablet device proved initially disappointing , only to see reduced prices spark a surge in interest from buyers. During a conference call with analysts earlier this week, Whitman conceded that HP “needs to be in the tablet business” — and that it intends to participate in that business using Microsoft’s tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system. She also said a long-term decision regarding the webOS software business is forthcoming within the “next couple of months.” HP has already carried out a round of layoffs in that division. Another not very encouraging sign amid the ongoing uncertainty is the departure of Richard Kerris — who had headed up HP’s webOS developer outreach efforts — for a similar Windows-related job at Nokia . And related to that is the fate of Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and former head of Apple’s iPod business unit. Once the public face of webOS — and of Palm before that, as its final CEO — he has not been visible at all during any of HP’s recent upheavals. That said, rumors have been almost nonexistent about Rubinstein seeking or being recruited for a job elsewhere. It’s not like he needs the work, but his apparent future is about as cloudy as that of the webOS itself. Currently he’s a product guy without a product; his role at HP is unclear. In July, he was bumped from his title as general manager of the webOS unit and moved into an iffy “product innovation role” within PSG. One thing is true: Rubinstein has a close relationship with Todd Bradley, who leads the PSG unit. At least Bradley’s fate is cleared up: The high-profile exec has been the subject of numerous reports and rumors, including a March report in The Wall Street Journal that said he had been recruited by chipmaker Intel . Since then, Bradley has been regularly asked about his future plans. It was an open secret in Silicon Valley that Bradley feuded with HP’s prior CEO, Léo Apotheker, and was not consulted about the PSG spinoff plan before it was floated to the public.
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