HP's top priorities after its change of CEO: Regain lost trust, resolve identity crisis

Steve Ranger's Notebook: Meg Whitman has some big decisions to make...

...value the supply chain synergies - the option to expand in mobility is gone," he said in a statement.

With so much still to be decided, where should Whitman begin?

Leo Apotheker

Ex-SAP boss Leo Apotheker's tenure as CEO at HP lasted just under a yearPhoto: HP

Restoring trust

First and most importantly, HP has to regain the trust of employees, partners and customers, many of which will have been rattled by the rapid turnover in CEOs and the uncertainty around strategy.

Customers of enterprise technology companies value reliability over everything else, and HP's sudden lurches in strategy have undermined that. HP might not want to be boring and predictable, but that's exactly what a chunk of its customers really like.

If HP does decide to hold onto the PC business, it's faced with another quandary: how to deal with the lingering death of the desktop prompted by the exciting growth in new form factors, such as tablets - tablets like the one it just killed off.

In many respects, the Apotheker plan made - and still makes - sense. It's the execution and communication that was flawed.

The PC business is so central to HP that any plan to tinker with it should have been carefully thought out long before it was announced, rather than announced and then thought about.

HP is a Silicon Valley heavyweight, the home to many tremendous people and technologies. And yet, part of HP has always wanted to be one of the cool kids - printers and PCs might make plenty of money but they aren't going to generate the 'wow' factor that so many execs crave for their business. Another part of the company wants to be IBM, or maybe Oracle, leaving PCs behind and becoming a software and services-driven company. Perhaps it's time to stop looking outward for inspiration, and start looking inward.

Fundamentally, HP needs to decide what it wants to be, and stick to it - and do it quickly.

Steve Ranger is the editor of silicon.com and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, culture and business for over a decade. You can find him tweeting @steveranger.