"Apotheker alienated longtime technology partner Microsoft by announcing that HP personal computers would run on Palm's WebOS, shunning Windows," Mark Veverka concludes in his Barron's column over the weekend. "An apology to Steve Ballmer would be a good place for Whitman to start."
No one is going to deny that Whitman has her hands full at her new gig. There's plenty of tidying up to do. The traditional PC business is stagnant, and HP isn't much of a force in the faster-growing areas of "good enough" computing, including smartphones and tablets. HP's attempt to diversify into higher-margin businesses has forced it to sorely overpay in some cases.
However, does she really need to mend HP's standing with Microsoft?
For starters, buying Palm wasn't even Apotheker's idea. It was one of Mark Hurd's final acts before being caught with his hand in the business ethics cookie jar. I didn't like the Apotheker hire, but you can't blame him for trying to make the most out of HP's 10-figure investment in Palm by exploiting webOS.
After all, if we're doling out apologies, doesn't Ballmer owe an "I'm sorry" to HP and Dell (NAS: DELL) for Vista? How about we get an even bigger apology for ignoring the portable threats of Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iOS and Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android until it was too late? The biggest reason for HP and Dell losing market share -- in a diminishing domestic pie no less -- lately rests largely on Microsoft's shortcomings.
Cash-rich Microsoft has tried to buy its way out of its lack of nimbleness. It will send billions to Nokia (NYS: NOK) to champion its mobile platform, just as it's sending billions to Yahoo! (NAS: YHOO) to expand Bing's reach in search.
Why should Whitman have to mend something that Ballmer has shown a tendency in overpaying to fix?
Whitman has nothing to apologize about here. If anything, she should thank Ballmer for making her new gig possible. If it wasn't for Microsoft's ineptitude, HP wouldn't be in the sorry state of naming its fourth CEO in the past 14 months.
I'm sorry, Ballmer bulls, but it needs to be said.
At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Apple, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Dell, Google, Apple, and Yahoo!.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple as well as in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for HP. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.
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