Five outsiders who could lead Hewlett-Packard

If Meg Whitman doesn't work out, Marc Benioff, Steve Mills, Charles Phillips or even Mark Hurd come to mind as candidates

By , IDG News Service |  Software

But while Phillips may know business software inside and out, he only had a short time to get acquainted with hardware after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in early 2010. That may be a problem for him as CEO of HP, which still derives only a tiny percentage of revenue from software.

"He's a software executive, and HP is not a software company," Hamerman said.

But Wang held a different view, saying HP would likely be in solid hands from an operational standpoint with Phillips at the helm. "Charles is the executor."

4. Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP.

SAP-co CEO Bill McDermott presents in his regular public appearances the type of controlled, smooth confidence that HP could use in a leader right now.

He's also considered by experts to be one of the industry's top salesmen, focusing on that aspect of SAP's business while his co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe handles the technology end of things.

"If anything, he'd be able to improve the customer relationships," Wang said.

Hamerman echoed the notion. "I think he's a great spokesman for SAP. He projects the kind of communication skills and persona that Leo didn't have."

"On the other hand he's not a tech visionary," Hamerman said. "That's not what SAP wants him to do. His role is to focus on customer relationships and being an articulate spokesman. Right now HP needs a tech visionary and he's not the guy."

In addition, McDermott lacks experience in hardware, and actually makes a habit of saying publicly how disinterested SAP is in getting into that business directly. It's not clear how investors would react to him being chosen to lead the hardware-centric HP.

5. Mark Hurd, co-president of Oracle.

Yes, the same Mark Hurd who was ousted as HP CEO after a scandal involving his relationship a with a company contractor, and ended up quickly grabbing a job as co-president of Oracle.

On the plus side, "he knows HP inside and out, and from the financial side he already turned it around [as CEO there]," Scavo said.

But morale at HP was said to suffer under Hurd's watch. And obviously, he "doesn't have the best relationship with HP's board," Scavo said.

Not to mention that going back to HP would certainly constitute a betrayal of Hurd's close friend, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who famously defended Hurd and slammed the HP board after his firing.

Truth be told, anybody wanting Hurd back in the fold at HP is probably dreaming, according to Hamerman.

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