Changes at Top Could Signal New Direction for Profitable Unit
Things had been going so well for HP's Imaging & Printing Group, long touted as the company's most profitable division.
With its home photo printers still popular with consumers and professional photographers, and a raft of innovative new digital cameras receiving largely positive reviews from the photo trade press (which had been lukewarm to it's earlier models), HP seemed to be on the verge of making a major play into the photo retail market.
Most notably of all, Vyomesh "VJ" Joshi, the Imaging & Printing Group's rising star had been promoted to executive vice president of HP's newly formed Imaging and Personal Systems Group, a unit that accounts for $50 billion of HP's $80 billion in annual revenue.
Things had looked so good—and then the news broke in February. HP's colorful (and controversial) CEO Carleton "Carly" Fiorina had been ousted after nearly six years at the helm of the Palo Alto-based company. While industry analysts were still debating the fallout from Fiorina's departure (most have viewed it as a positive thing), the hole at the top had still not been filled for HP as PTN went to press. There had been some speculation that Joshi himself might be the man to fill that slot, further putting into question the state of its imaging division.
While Joshi was unavailable for an interview at press time, in other published reports he tried to quell speculation that HP would spin off its imaging and printing divisions. As he told one publication, "The portfolio we have is very powerful. Using the assets that we have will [allow us] to grow our business from an Imaging and Personal Systems Group point of view in a very effective way."
At the PMA show in Orlando last month, HP showed off some of its latest imaging assets including the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional Printer, the first nine-ink color and black-and-white photo printer that produces professional-quality photos up to 13x19 inches. Other PMA releases include a new line of digital cameras with affordable price points—the HP Photosmart R717, M417, M22 and M23 cameras with HP Instant Share at estimated prices ranging from $149 to $349.
"HP provides a simple path for consumers and professionals alike to capture, print and share their photos the way they want, when and where they want," said Joshi in announcing the new products. "Our complete portfolio sets a new standard in the industry for long-lasting, high-quality photos at affordable prices."
Before Fiorina got the ax in early February, she was one of the most powerful and well-known women executives in the corporate sector. Referred to simply as "Carly" in most industry circles, Fiorina spearheaded strategies that were supposed to secure HP's spot as an undisputed market leader.
The most controversial of these initiatives was the 2002 merger with Compaq, which was met with strong resistance by HP board members and shareholders, setting off what would become a stormy relationship between Fiorina and the Board.
Despite the resistance, Fiorina pushed the merger through, but her promised results fell short: HP-Compaq lost market share in the personal-computer pie to rivals Dell and IBM, and profit margins fell. Some pointed fingers at Fiorina's management style, claiming she wasn't hands-on enough in the company's day-to-day operations and didn't cut costs enough to help HP survive in an increasingly cutthroat and competitive technology terrain. After her ouster at HP, Fiorina had briefly been a candidate to head the World Bank.