(Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) on Tuesday named Todd Bradley, the head of its largest unit, printing and personal computers, to take on the new job of improving the company's China business and extending distribution partner relationships around the world.
Bradley, who was among the people considered for the chief executive post after the ouster of Mark Hurd in 2010, will also work with CEO Meg Whitman to identify start-ups that will help in the company's long-term growth.
HP, which has been struggling to stabilize its declining PC sales, billed its distribution partners and China business as keys to its future. Whitman is in the midst of leading a multi-year turnaround of the Silicon Valley icon, which has seen turbulent times with the ouster of two CEOs in the last four years.
The new move represents "a lateral move" for Bradley, said HP spokesman Michael Thacker, who called China a crucial market for HP.
But not everyone was convinced that it represented a positive step for Bradley.
"Essentially Todd went from running half of HP to looking at little companies - seems like a demotion to me," said Brian Marshall, analyst with ISI Group.
It was unclear which executives will now be reporting to Bradley, who has been responsible for nearly half the company in his role overseeing the PC and printer businesses.
Dion Weisler, currently senior vice president for the printer and personal systems business in Asia Pacific and Japan, who joined the company from rival Lenovo Group (0992.HK) last year, will take Bradley's job as executive vice president for the division.
While revenue fell across HP in its latest fiscal second quarter, the steepest decline was in the personal systems group run by Bradley. The PC-focused unit's revenue dived 20 percent to $7.58 billion.
Bradley, an eight-year HP veteran whose star had risen under Whitman, took over running the massive printer division along with PCs in March 2012, after Whitman decided in 2011 to not sell the PC unit.
Bradley joined HP following the acquisition of Palm, where he had been chief executive. He was passed over for the CEO's job after Hurd left and the company hired Leo Apotheker.
While Apotheker was CEO, Bradley oversaw HP's ill-fated and high-profile launch of the TouchPad tablet in 2011. The TouchPad was killed within a few months of launch.
In the PC arena, HP has seen Lenovo and other Asian manufacturers rapidly grab share. Lenovo now trails HP by a slim margin in PC shipments, according to technology research group IDC.
Adding to HP's trouble is a decline in the overall market for computers, with global PC shipments facing a deeper-than-expected 7.8 percent slump this year as tablets overtake laptops for the first time, according to a report from market research company IDC.
Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler