I’ve already explained why I think Meg Whitman is a poor choice to lead Hewlett Packard. Here’s why Brian Utley would be so much better.

What HP needs most at this point is breathing room and hiring Brian as interim CEO would do that, allowing the company to make a proper CEO search (including a number of good internal candidates) while leaving the company in good hands. Well past normal retirement age, Brian would have no Whitmanesque ambitions to run the company long-term, though I think he’d really enjoy running HP for awhile.

It’s time for the HP board to give up trying to act in fell swoops. They simply aren’t smart enough.

Brian, if you don’t know him, spent his entire career at IBM, starting as a computer repairman in San Francisco in the punch card era and rising through the ranks to run (and a couple of times shut down) whole divisions of IBM — not today’s IBM, but the IBM we all remember. With a solid engineering background and deep business experience Brian is built precisely in the tradition of Hewlett and Packard where Carly Fiorina, Mark Hurd, Leo Apotheker, and Meg Whitman weren’t. He would not only understand HP, he would command instant respect from the troops. We may not have seen that at HP since John Young left 15 years ago.

And let’s be clear about something: Brian Utley is probably smarter and better-grounded than all those other HP CEOs put together. Which I guess makes it impossible he’d ever be hired, right?

Here is Brian’s bio from his current retirement gig as chief strategy officer at wheretolive.com in Eden Prairie, MN:

Brian joins us after a long career in the IT industry. He spent 37 years with IBM and was responsible for the development of many of IBM’s small and intermediate systems including the S/38, AS400 and PC. His influence within IBM impacted virtually all computer-based technologies and resulted in his appointment as Vice President and General Manager of the Personal Computer Division. Since his retirement from IBM, he has assisted a number of start-up companies in the manufacturing and IT industry. He attended Weber State University and San Francisco City College.