Opinion

Next HP boss must signal networking commitment

The news of Mark Hurd's resignation from the hotseat at Hewlett-Packard will continue to ripple through the industry this week, and is already causing concern among some network watchers.

Hurd threw in the towel on Friday after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment found breaches of conduct relating to his expenses. A former actress and reality show contestant has since come forward in an attempt at damage limitation.

But already, HP's share price is suffering and the whiff of scandal that surrounds Hurd's departure is going to take a lot of people off message at a crucial time.

The world's largest IT vendor is currently basking in the praise for its recent acquisitions in the networking space, with the integration of Palm on track and last year's purchase of 3Com bedding in very nicely.

If HP truly wants to compete with Cisco, it needs to focus at this point, move past Mark Hurd's departure, and take care that its next CEO sticks to the plan and doesn't decide to make a clean sweep of things.

As we saw a couple of months ago, when Mark Hurd made remarks about the future of Palm that HP later had to retract, it doesn't take much to cause investors to get jittery, and this could upset the entire game plan.

Lots of names are in the running at this early stage of the game; in the last few days various sources have reported that if no internal candidates seem up for the job, the head-hunters may call on people from companies as diverse as Cisco, EMC, IBM, Oracle and even Apple.

We should be watching very closely where the next CEO comes from. It may send a critical signal over the future of this key component of HP's business and could cement, once and for all, HP's commitment to the networking space.

This was first published in August 2010

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