HP chief executive Meg Whitman has admitted HP confused customers and staff in its 2011 financial year and vowed to focus on fostering innovation from within in the coming year.
Speaking to analysts in the company's annual financial report conference call, Whitman revealed that HP's fourth-quarter net earnings were down more than 90 per cent on the year-ago quarter – from $2.5bn to $200m – after it took a $2.1bn hit for closing its WebOS operation.
Whitman said that while economic factors and the recent natural disasters in Japan impacted HP's performance, the company also suffered from its own poor decisions in 2011.
"We confused customers, employees, shareholders and partners on one fundamental question: what is HP?" said Whitman.
She said a number of issues had thrown the company's identity into question, particularly the decision by former chief Leo Apotheker to spin off HP's personal systems group. The move was soon reversed following Apotheker's exit from the company and replacement by Whitman.
Going forward, Whitman said HP will refocus its efforts on its in-house businesses. The HP chief said the company will be reinvesting in its research and development, adding that large acquisitions, such as the £6.6bn purchase of Autonomy, were unlikely to be repeated in the 2012 financial year.
"We need to put our heads down, stay out of the news cycle and reduce the drama here," Whitman said.
Charles King, principal analyst for research firm Pund-IT, told V3 that Whitman's attempt to calm the waters at HP was entirely to be expected following her short tenure with the company.
"I think that is a perfectly reasonable position to take at this particular time," the analyst explained.
"After the melodrama of most of the past year, I think the last thing HP shareholders and investors want are large strategic visions and dramatic statements of purpose."
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