Meg Whitman was supposed to be HP's savior -- a calming force after a tumultuous decade at the once-great tech giant. But her one-year tenure has been marred by expensive write-downs, a tricky PC problem, and a corporate oversight disaster.
Almost any other CEO could have passed off HP's $8.8 billion write-down on Autonomy as an inherited mistake from the previous -- and unceremoniously ousted -- CEO. But Meg Whitman was part of HP's board when the deal for the software company was approved. HP's claim that $5 billion of the write-down can be chalked up to accounting fraud by Autonomy has been heavily scrutinized by industry analysts, and HP's refusal to explain that number is generating more questions than answers. Autonomy's ousted founder Mike Lynch denies the allegations.
The Autonomy write-down contributed to the company's third multi-billion-dollar loss in five quarters, all of which were caused by giant write-offs. An $885 million write-down on Palm and an $8 billion write-down on EDS were for purchases that predated Whitman, but she was integral in at least one decision that so far hasn't paid off: Keeping PCs.
A spokesman for HP noted that its PC business remains the industry's most profitable.
But HP's PC sales have tumbled this year, along with the rest of the industry's, as the mobile revolution continues. Whitman's team unveiled some interesting hardware designs for Microsoft's(MSFT) Windows 8 software, and the market could yet turn around. But investors aren't betting on it: Shares of HP(HPQ) -- the worldwide PC leader -- recently hit 10-year lows.