That's just it with big companies. They become lazy and averse to risk because if it goes wrong, it can mean culling a large workforce. Apple doesn't have a large workforce relatively - HP employs 10x more people than Apple. Some of the models that Apple follows are in terms of manufacturing and structuring to help cut down inventory.
I think that HP clearly has some creative talent as they wouldn't have gone with the Touchpad at all nor would they have bought Palm/WebOS but they need to be more committed to what they do. You can't just buy a creative company, stick your logo on it and expect people to buy into your eco-system. All the old-school corporate types are doing this. They hire creative agencies to put out some marketing promos and you still see the executives in their interviews wearing their generic suits and making the stupid decisions.
When you look at Apple, you can see that they live what they sell and that genuine attitude resonates with people. You just have to buy your granddad a shirt from Gap for Christmas and you can see how little difference it makes to a lifestyle. HP needs to do what Apple did in the late 90s and figure out who they are. If they want to be corporate, they can go die a death like grandpa in his fancy shirt. If they want to be like Apple, they need to throw their weight behind WebOS and bring it to at least the level of Windows Phone. The only problem is, at this stage there's only really room for two, maybe three operating systems and the top slots are occupado.
It's far easier to be different in hardware than it is in software because no matter how crappy you make your hardware, you can still run a lot of software if it's compatible with the majority. Maybe the best thing for them now would be to hook up with Google and merge the best parts of Web OS into Android, possibly as a layer like Touchwiz. Then they can focus on making competitive hardware.