HP's new head Mark Hurd refused to discuss his plans for the company at the first meeting with analysts yesterday, reflecting his cultured "safe pair of hands" image.

Hurd, who will officially assume the position on Friday, said instead that he would spend the next few months learning about HP before he crafts a strategy for running it.

Analysts repeatedly pressed Hurd on whether he would consider breaking up HP, by spinning off either its lucrative printing group or its struggling PC division. But Hurd replied that he won't answer that question until he's had more time to study HP. He did suggest however that he would prefer to appease shareholders looking for investment gains by improving HP's overall performance, rather than by selling off pieces of the company.

HP chairman Patricia Dunn repeated the board's previous statements that HP's CEO switch is about changing the company's operational performance, not its strategy.

During an event later in the day at HP's headquarters, Hurd said that it was premature to talk about spinning off the company's businesses. "I got here at nine o'clock last night," he said. "I didn't spend a lot of time working on spin-offs."

At Hurd's first meeting with executives yesterday, the topic of spinning off the company's businesses was not discussed, according to Shane Robison, HP's chief strategy and technology officer. "It's just you guys who are focused on it," he said to reporters. "It didn't come up."

Robison said his initial impression of Hurd was favorable. "I like him a lot," he said. "He's got the right focus on operations. And style-wise, he's going to be very open in how he runs the business and communications."

Hurd, 48, comes to HP with a reputation as a cost-cutter devoted to bottom-line efficiencies. He brushed aside a question about whether he would consider workforce reductions at HP, saying he needs more time to determine that, but he said operational excellence will remain his priority. "I believe in an execution-oriented culture," Hurd said. "I believe in setting clear goals, implementing tactical plans, and holding people accountable."