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HP chief faces axe, as does WebOS

Tough times for Leo Apotheker

Leo Apotheker, CEO of struggling computer firm HP, may face the axe later on Thursday, as the company board meets to discuss his possible replacement. The flurry of rumours, which follows a year of strategic u-turns and missed forecasts, now points to Apotheker’s departure, just as the ill fated webOS project takes another blow.

The word is that HP is laying off over 500 staff directly involved in the WebOS platform, just weeks after killing off the hardware unit that produced the TouchPad and Pre devices. The move puts the future of WebOS as a software platform in doubt.

In August Apotheker said HP would “continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward,” noting that the device platform acquired with the $1.2bn purchase of Palm in April, would live on as an operating system only. The news was a complete u-turn on plans announced in March under which the webOS operating system would be installed on every PC shipped by HP. In fact, HP is getting out of the hardware business altogether, with Apotheker announcing plans to spin off the Personal Systems Group as a separate entity if it can’t find a buyer.

The firm had announced a focus on software and services with an eye on cloud computing through the $10bn acquisition of Autonomy, but that move didn’t necessarily cast Apotheker in any better light. If the board votes against his plans this week, Apotheker could be on the job market very soon.

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