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HP's "solution" appears to be to downsize workforce, rather than pursue new markets

Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) is the world's top personal computer seller, but the company has appeared lost over the last few years, as it has searched for identity.  From its ill-fated Palm experiment in the mobile market, to its disastrous decision to appoint SAP AG (ETR:SAPreject Léo Apotheker, HP has seemingly created more fires than it has put out.

I. HP Prepares for a Massive "Downsizing"

Now with former eBay, Inc. (EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman at the helm, the company is trying to course correct and return to its core identity as a PC maker.  The New York Times reported late Thursday that Ms. Whitman planned to chop 30,000 jobs next week -- nearly 10 percent of HP's 324,000 person global workforce.

HP reports its earnings next Wednesday and the cuts are expected to be announced then.  A second report from Bloomberg Business Insider pegged the number of expected layoffs slightly lower, at 25,000, which offers an indication that the precise number may be a "game-time decision" of source.  Regardless, the number of layoffs is expected to be large (>20,000) come Wednesday.

Meg Whitman
Meg Whitman reportedly plans to cut around 10 percent of her company's employees.
[Image Source: towleroad]

Comments the NYT's source, "[Whitman] is trying to build a new company.  You can count this as a part of that.”

The electronics giant pulled in $127B USD in 2011, but drew criticism for only posting $7.1B USD in profit, while rivals like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) posted much higher earnings margins.  Part of the issue is thought to be HP failed to go anywhere in potentially lucrative areas such as mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) and cloud computing.

In mobile devices, many of the issues boiled down to HP's decision to pick up a struggling device maker (Palm) and then put little effort into trying to turn it around, and then simply bailing out of the market when the results of its lack of effort hit the metaphorical fan.

In cloud computing, HP has quite a bit of product -- the problem is it's being overlooked.  According to various sources HP has picked the wrong horse in the cloud computing race, betting on ultra-power efficient servers.  Unfortunately, top cloud computing buyers such as Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) and Google, Inc. (GOOG) have increasingly prioritized lower prices over higher power efficiency.  As a result HP is seeing Asian competitors who produce cheap commodity cloud servers earning much of the sales it had hoped to capture.

II. Doing More With Less -- a Solution or Just Punting the True Problems?

The layoffs are expected to mostly spare HP's growing Chinese unit, and instead focus on the U.S. and European units.  The cuts are designed to free up cash to invest in restructuring.

The New York Times describes:

Ms. Whitman, who through a spokesman declined to be interviewed, plans to put money into sales technology for things like fast product quotes, customer tracking and servicing, and bill paying. The hope is that the money gained by job cuts will be used for an efficient, better-trained sales force that in turn can generate more cash.

In other words, HP is going to invest in trying to do the same amount of work with a smaller workforce -- a popular move of late in the post-recession U.S. market.  While that approach may indeed improve margins, it may also leave a bad taste in the mouths of some investors that had hoped HP would make more drastic changes to its cloud computing efforts, or invest in resurrecting its dead mobile device lineup.

Punting a football
Some fear HP is punting on its true structural issues. [Image Source: How to Punt a Football]

Another concern is that there's no indication that HP will invest any of the savings in restoring HP Labs to its former glory.  Investors fear that cutbacks to HP Labs, which started during the seemingly prosperous Mark Hurd era, may hurt HP's long-term success prospects.

Long a bastion of electronics industry research, HP Labs has continued to do novel work, such as inventing the memristor -- a long theorized circuit element, which could lead to new cheaper, more power-efficient kinds of storage.  However, the cutbacks have forced the star institution to operate on a shoestring budget, raising questions of whether HP will be able to continue to attract top talent.  The situation is so bad at HP Labs, according to The New York Times, that researchers are forced to use pirated software for their day-to-day work.

There are plenty of questions for HP as it prepares to announce its massive layoffs and restructuring.  HP appears to be choosing the easy answer; an answer many of its corporate colleagues have opted for in the wake of the recession -- cut the workforce, while forcing current employees to work harder and more efficiently.  The question at HP -- as with the other firms who have adopted this approach -- is whether that plan is maintainable as a long-term solution, and whether it really addresses the underlying structural issues that caused the company to go from growing to contracting.

Sources: The New York Times, Bloomberg



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RE: well
By kleinma on 5/18/2012 3:56:11 PM , Rating: 2
RE: well
By retrospooty on 5/18/12, Rating: -1
RE: well
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/18/2012 4:19:12 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Considering how little the UN even knows about its own purpose, I don't believe they are any sort of authority on worker productivity, or anything for that matter.

There are certainly high performers in the US, but as a whole factoring in all the lazy useless slobs and averaging it out, i'd say we aren't looking good.
Or maybe it's in the best interest of corporations to portray workers as "lazier" than their foreign counterparts, as it makes it easier to lay them off and demand more from the remaining ones.

I'm not saying some workers aren't lazy. I worked as an engineer at several companies -- even worked IT at a UAW plant for a summer. There were certainly individuals who took a lot of breaks, watched golf tournaments, etc. But most people got quite a bit accomplished as the months rolled by.

I think the illusion lies more with the foreign worker. Humans aren't machines. Many Chinese or Indian workers are likely doing the exact same things as their American counterparts. It wouldn't surprise me if they were taking MORE breaks and slacking off more.

Of course, when people tour factories, they're going to complain about horrendous back-breaking never-stopping work demands. If you interviewed people at a UAW plant they'd probably claim the same thing.

Face it -- people are lazy all over. Americans are not some special snowflake.

It would not surprise me if we are among the hardest working populations in the world. I knew lots of engineers that put in 12+ hr days every day. And most of the line workers at the UAW plant (with a couple notable exceptions) were extremely hardworking and took few breaks.

Just because some folks are lazy, doesn't mean that everyone is, or that there are no lazy people in places like India and China.


RE: well
By JediJeb on 5/18/2012 5:31:39 PM , Rating: 4
I will agree that there are many many hard working people in America, but what frightens me is when we are hiring and we interview people who are just out of high school/college. We have hired a few lately that stay one day then never come back because the work was too hard, how can sitting at a desk and typing in a few numbers be that hard? One didn't like that she couldn't answer texts when she was working. One complained that counting the number of baby minnows in a cup(usually about 10)was too hard(mind numbingly boring I agree, but difficult?) One even asked if they would be moved up to management in less than two years lol.

Hopefully these younger people will develop better work ethics as they mature, but currently it doesn't look too promising on average. I fear that current school atmospheres are promoting the "you can be anything you want to be" ideas but not adding the "but you must work hard to achieve it" caveat. I grew up around older men that would work until they dropped just to put food on the table and cloths on their family's backs but today you can barely get someone to work overtime even if they were starving.


RE: well
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/18/2012 6:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I will agree that there are many many hard working people in America, but what frightens me is when we are hiring and we interview people who are just out of high school/college. We have hired a few lately that stay one day then never come back because the work was too hard, how can sitting at a desk and typing in a few numbers be that hard? One didn't like that she couldn't answer texts when she was working. One complained that counting the number of baby minnows in a cup(usually about 10)was too hard(mind numbingly boring I agree, but difficult?) One even asked if they would be moved up to management in less than two years lol.

Hopefully these younger people will develop better work ethics as they mature, but currently it doesn't look too promising on average. I fear that current school atmospheres are promoting the "you can be anything you want to be" ideas but not adding the "but you must work hard to achieve it" caveat. I grew up around older men that would work until they dropped just to put food on the table and cloths on their family's backs but today you can barely get someone to work overtime even if they were starving.
True, definitely good perspective.

My point wasn't that Americans AREN'T lazy, rather, was just trying to argue that there are lazy people everywhere.

I think technology enables people to be lazy to a greater extent, which is where part of the perception that Americans are lazier may arise.

As you alluded to, in the old days if you didn't work hard, you could quite literally starve.

I think some people will always be lazy and or try to exploit the system.

I think in America people do gravitate towards extremes more, as our society teaches that being "average" is bad. America's society used to respect honest hardworking "everyday joes" like farmers or factory workers, but that has changed dramatically over the last five or six decades. Today those people are looked down upon, by many in America. Just look at terms like "blue collar" -- and the deep weight of condescension they carry.

People don't want to be a beloved neighborhood mechanic -- they want to be Michael Jordan or Bill Gates. Some spend their lives chasing those dreams, working their butts off. Others recognize that they've already failed and then go to opposite extreme, becoming lazy and exploitive.

The lazy find ways to exploit the system to a greater extent (e.g. mothers that have 20 children and are on welfare), while the hard working become workaholics and work much harder than their foreign peers.

Overall I think these opposites balance out, though I'm not quite sure whether we end up behind or ahead versus a country like China. I think a number of the studies and commentaries (see the various ones linked in this thread) are interesting but very subjective and inconclusive. It's really largely speculation to say Chinese on a whole are lazier than Americans or harder working than Americans. I would expect, in reality, they're very SIMILAR to Americans in that they're people too. Particularly given that Chinese society is becoming much more permeated with high-tech products and niceties.

I've personally seen both sides of the coin and could easily give anecdotes that the U.S. was worse or better, but I suspect that in the end we're all the same. As Depeche Mode said, "People are people."


RE: well
By JediJeb on 5/21/2012 2:01:50 PM , Rating: 2
I believe they average out now, but I hope they will continue to average out in the future. If not, then I feel sorry for the future.


RE: well
By amanojaku on 5/18/2012 6:42:07 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
One complained that counting the number of baby minnows in a cup(usually about 10)was too hard(mind numbingly boring I agree, but difficult?)
In his/her defense, the Minnow tends to disappear into uncharted locations, once from 1964 to 1979! ;)


RE: well
By Dr of crap on 5/21/2012 8:48:50 AM , Rating: 2
It's about the lets play and not keep score mentality.
No one looses that way.
Everyone gets everything handed to them for no effort

There is a generation that has had this crap thrown at them and you see what we have now - college boys that have there eyes in their cell and expect to have everything with NO effort.


RE: well
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/18/2012 4:11:24 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Oh really?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20572828/
America's problems have less to do with hard work and more to do about unchecked corporate greed.

I say "unchecked" not in the sense that the government should charge in and try to "fix" the problem -- not that they would do that anyways, given that they're bought and paid for on both "sides of the aisle" (which more or less are the same side, you'll come to realize).

No, the real problem is that there's no real sense of social responsibility among many ultrawealthy. For every Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, there are plenty who are perfectly happy to lay off Americans, horde money, and live like kings while the peasants starve.

America is a "winner takes all" society -- it's a trend noted by many, many sociologists in peer-reviewed studies. Ultimate that leads to one outcome -- a plutocracy or oligarchy, ruled by a small elite who control both the government and corporations, as when the winner "takes all" they often don't want to give it up (folks like Gates are the praiseworthy exception).

Not saying we're there yet (America as a full-blown plutocracy), but we're definitely headed in that direction. Americans will need a fundamental change in mindset and to rise up out of their socio-political apathy, in order to change that situations. Until they do, exploitation and pain will only increase for the hard-working American middle class.


RE: well
By JediJeb on 5/18/2012 5:35:11 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like the movie "Rollerball" was on the right track.

"They offered the people freedom or comfort and they chose comfort" Lead character talking about the ruling corporations regarding the people.


RE: well
By Zingam on 5/19/12, Rating: 0
RE: well
By knutjb on 5/19/2012 3:40:34 PM , Rating: 3
We defeated COMMUNISM not Socialism. Communism failed by propping up unprofitable products through central planning. When any government central planning agency tries to soften the blow of failure the government will eventually fail. Our open economy was able to handle the high government spending because weak companies were weeded out. Now we have the return of PROGRESSIVISM which was strong about 100 years ago and is very similar to Communism, Marxism, Socialism, Totalitarianism, and Fascism. Back then Woodrow Wilson started expanding the Federal government to a size and scope never before seen. At the end of his term we were as we are now, extremely over extended, just like European Aristocracies then and Social Democracies now. They corrected it by cutting the Federal government by 50%, which led to the greatest peacetime growth in US history.

While I lumped Communism, Marxism, Socialism, Totalitarianism, and Fascism together there are significant differences in how they function. One area they all fail is that they all treat people as purely mathematical functions rather than the emotional beings we are. Those emotions come to light once the “all knowing” government begins to collapse from economic instability inherent in government planning. Government planners rarely are fired for failure.

This becomes relevant because Capitalism succeeds where the others fail by cutting off the dead weight in the economy, just like what HP is doing to survive. Capitalism isn’t perfect but is far more effective and stable in the long run than Communism, Marxism, Socialism, Totalitarianism, and Fascism. Unfortunately we have a government who thinks they know what’s best for the little people. That is a recipe for disaster. People do best when they can fail. No government can prevent failure. Letting failure follow it’s natural course leads to short term pain with greater long term gain. Weak companies must fail. If HP can get its act together, I hope they do, it will continue, otherwise it will be absorbed by a more successful company. No government planning can prevent that.

So no, it isn't ironic. Learn your history.


RE: well
By Jedi2155 on 5/21/2012 4:58:48 AM , Rating: 2
The cutting of the federal government by 50%. Wasn't that the same time as World War 1? So all the soldiers hired for the war constitute as part of the government? What was the size of the government before his term? Then after?


RE: well
By Nfarce on 5/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: well
By Jedi2155 on 5/21/2012 6:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
None of those were present during the 1910s-1920s. So which government entities were cut during that period?


RE: well
By knutjb on 5/21/2012 10:09:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
None of those were present during the 1910s-1920s. So which government entities were cut during that period?

Woodrow Wilson is the president who grew the government into a monstrosity during his term 12-20. So nothing was cut, except military pensions. Fascinating reading on Douglas MacArthur.

Harding and Coolidge cut the government after WWI. It was also known as the roaring 20s.

It sounds, reading from your posts, you haven’t read much history. A few more points on Wilson’s tenure; the first movie played in the Whitehouse was Birth of a Nation for which Wilson praised. Several Federal departments were officially segregated. The Federal income tax was implemented not to exceed 6%, it was a little bit higher by 1919. He promised not to enter WWI during his reelection campaign we entered 3 months after his inauguration. He brought in academics, the tweeds, to run his new bureaucracies. Oh, and the massive debt he created.

So as to
quote:
The cutting of the federal government by 50%. Wasn't that the same time as World War 1? So all the soldiers hired for the war constitute as part of the government? What was the size of the government before his term? Then after?
Apples to apples takes a little too much time for this venue, try reading it yourself.


RE: well
By FITCamaro on 5/19/2012 8:39:01 AM , Rating: 2
Oh bullshit.

No one has any "social responsibility" other than to work hard, raise their family, and contribute as they choose in other ways. There is nothing socially irresponsible about having a lot of money and not doing anything with it.

Now when corporations don't look at the big picture and only focus on short term gains, yes, that is irresponsible. But no one but the companies board of directors is responsible for doing anything about it. Now as consumers, if we don't approve of a companies actions, we can choose not to do business with them.

But in typical Generation WAAAAAAAHHHH fashion, most people continue to do business with the companies they talk bad about because they ultimately want their products.


RE: well
By johnsmith9875 on 5/29/2012 10:57:19 AM , Rating: 2
You can blame the stock market for it. A company that has stock is pressured by investors to be profitable, and if there's bad times they flee like rats.

This introduces huge swings in fortune even for minor things like a short term of unprofitablity.

A privately held company doesn't have to constantly cater to a bunch of whining pump and dump traders, but the appeal of fast bucks from wall street cash is a siren song to companies that dream of fantastic wealth.


RE: well
By Reclaimer77 on 5/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: well
By gixser on 5/18/2012 4:20:07 PM , Rating: 2
RE: well
By The Raven on 5/21/2012 12:25:47 PM , Rating: 2
I couldn't care less either way since you need only follow the money/jobs to figure this one out, but it looks like this report is full of holes. I can tell you with out any question in my mind that the lady digging through the trash for cans at my apt complex is 1) 'illegal' i.e. not American and 2) a harder worker than anyone I work with. Also efficiency needs to be measured along side of $/hr. Why is it better to have one dude doing the work of 10 guys that cost a tenth of their price? The efficiency is equal.

Contrary to how this article comes off, Americans are not physiologically any better than any one anywhere else, especially on an individual level. It would be interesting to see what the statistics are for those foreigners who are here in the US (legally or otherwise) and see how they stack up.

We are not some kind of master race lol.


RE: well
By Keeir on 5/21/2012 4:30:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We are not some kind of master race lol.


Reading Comprehension.

The United States has a very high productivity rates due in great part to existing infrastructure and training. That was the point of the study.

quote:
Why is it better to have one dude doing the work of 10 guys that cost a tenth of their price? The efficiency is equal.


The corporation doesn't care. But that one dude is making 10 times as much as the 10 barely competent people. Is it better to have 1 upper middle class or 10 people living hand to mouth?


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