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Year In Review: The Good, The Bad And HP

As we wrap up another year of doing more with less--too often, a lot more with a lot less--it's time to look back at the highs and lows of the vendors of IT products, services, panaceas and placebos. Based on the latest quarterly earnings, HP ($32.3 billion) had a comfortable lead over Apple ($28.27 billion) and third-place IBM ($26.2 billion). Microsoft ($17.37 billion) held down fourth place, followed by Dell ($15.4 billion), Intel ($14.2 billion), Cisco ($11.3 billion), Oracle ($8.4 billion) and EMC ($4.98 billion). Depending upon whose forecast you use, the top vendors accounted for more than a third (IDC) or a fifth (Gartner) of the total IT pie this year. Here are some of the news they made in 2011.

Back in the late 1980s, just prior to Lou Gerstner taking control of a beleaguered IBM, a noted analyst said Big Blue was facing two options: shoot itself in the foot or wait until the market shot it in the head. In other words, make the painful choices before customers and competitors made them for you. Fast-forward to 2011, and a long-recovered IBM must have gotten a lot of enjoyment--and new customers--as HP appeared to get a garbled translation and tried blowing its own head off.

Trouble in paradise first came to light in June, when HP ousted two executives and gave a third a seat on its board. Out after 29 years at HP was Ann Livermore, head of HP Enterprise Services, as well as Pete Bocian, executive VP and chief administrative officer, and Randy Mott, executive VP and CIO.

Ex-SAP CEO Leo Apotheker's reign of terror as president and CEO of HP came to a close a month after he announced that the company was considering spinning off its Personal Systems Group, its PC business that accounts for almost a third of its total revenues. He was replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. In late October, she announced that HP had decided to stay in the PC business.

According to a Dell-sponsored study from IDG Research Services, 64% of current or potential HP customers with more than 500 employees were concerned by HP’s changes in business strategy and leadership. Another recent survey of 130 HP customers in the United States with at least 500 employees, by Technology Business Research, found that respondents were concerned with the direction the company was taking.

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