HP’s Meg Whitman Acknowledges Apple Could Surpass HP In 2012, Says 2013 Will Be HP’s Year

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“Yes. I think it’s possible if you integrate tablets,” said HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman in response to a question from French newspaper Le Figaro [translated] concerning Apple’s possible takeover as the world’s top PC maker. “Apple does a great job. We need to improve our game and our products to take over the leadership position. Apple could go past HP in 2012. We will try to become the champion in 2013. It takes time for the products on which I have come to influence the market.”

Whitman’s candid response echos a current debate: Should tablets, such as the iPad, be considered personal computers? If so, then Apple is on track to replace HP as the top PC maker. This comes after British research firm Canalys decided to include tablets in their analysis, basically crowning Apple as top dog. While Meg doesn’t dispute this technicality in the interview, she basically concedes all of 2012 and states to wait until 2013 for HP’s return to glory. After all, she says, that’s when the products she influenced would hit the market.

Wow.

Interestingly enough, during the same interview, Whitman talked a bit about the future of webOS. She stated that a decision would be made in the next two weeks as there are currently 600 employees in “limbo.” The only hint about its future is that Whitman stated that HP needs two OSes (could Android be the other option?).

It’s clear that Whitman understands Apple’s surging numbers and doesn’t see a quick fix. The company already flubbed its first attempt at an iPad competitor and per her statements about waiting until 2013, there isn’t likely a killer product in HP’s product pipeline. After all, the former HP CEO, Leo Apotheker, was clearly steering the HP machine away from the consumer market and down a path blazed by IBM and Oracle that leads to enterpriseland.

However, from an outsider’s vantage point, HP hasn’t looked this good in a while. After taking the helm, Whitman quickly decided to keep the Personal Systems Group within HP. The company’s stock is on an upward trend and HP beat Wall Street’s estimates in the fourth quarter. A sign of good leader is respecting competitors and keeping a straight head. Apple really is on track to beat HP in PC shipments if tablet computers are counted (they should be). It’s refreshing to see HP’s leader acknowledge it’s going to take some time to right the massive ship that is HP.