Monday, August 31, 2015

HPE will focus "FORWARD" not Backward

We are in receipt of "the Answer"--not the one we sought, but sometimes ambiguity is the worst thing.  Here is the response to a proposal to stage a Celebration Day for the 50th anniversary of the first HP computer, the HP 2116A, launched on November 7, 1966 at the Fall Joint Computer Conference (sigh, and a moment of silence to honor the dead)....

The proposal was to have the IEEE Silicon Valley History Committee combine with HP at the Computer History Museum to fete the first computer along with five or six key milestones for HP computing along the way--this to be timed with the anticipated HP CEO biographical book by Burgelman and McKinney next year, and the assention of the Hewlett papers at Stanford Library.

The reply, sent to Ned Barnholt, CEO emeritus for Agilent, when it spun out of HP in 1999:

Ned, as you're aware, we're in the middle of separating HP into two companies.  With my crazy workload, I sometimes have trouble responding to emails as fast as I'd like.

I took a look at your original message to Meg.  While the idea is
intriguing, Hewlett Packard Enterprise will focus its marketing and PR
efforts on the company's future (in particular, products, services and
especially, customer solutions).  

While acknowledging HP's history is always important (we celebrated HP's 75th anniversary last year), the push in 2016 will be forward looking, so I don't believe a larger 50th celebration of HP computers would be a good fit next year.  We're going to pass on the opportunity....

I hope you're doing well.
Best regards,
Henry Gomez
Executive Vice President,
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Hewlett-Packard Company

Friday, August 21, 2015

a long hiatus for personal reasons

A number (admittedly smaller than I might hope) of readers have asked over the past few months--'Where'd you go?   Haven't seen any updates to what once was a regular blog about HP happenings."


Well, personal life sometimes intrudes on the best of intentions.  And HP seems to have gotten by just fine without my witty, trenchant advice.

But... here I am, ready to sally forth and slay dragons again.

Well, maybe not quite dragons, but at least some scurrying lizards here and there.

What's on YOUR mind about HP, HPE, HPI, Agilent, Keysight, etc?

What's on my mind is just how transitory all of these concerns can seem on occasion.

I just finished reviewing again the "Secret History of Silicon Valley" that Steve Blank did so well a couple of years ago, coupled with re-reading several books about 'the Valley' and its famous folk.  And I was struck by how differently it gets played by various folk.

 The "big three" for Intel--Gordon Moore, Bob Noyce, and Andy Grove--were treated (if that's the right phrase) to a troika biography from Michael Malone, our self-styled Valley historian, in his 2014 book, The Intel Trinity.  And more recently, Arnold Thackray (now a transplanted Englishman via Philadelphia resides here in Menlo Park) finished his tome about Moore's Law: Gordon Moore--Quiet Revolutionary, just in time for the 50th anniversary of that "Law" that has described a ten-million fold increase in device density on micro-computer chips.

Moore's co-author is David Brock, now a research historian at the Philadelphia-based Chemical Heritage Foundation.  Brock and Christophe Lécuyer (a Stanford grad, and Berkeley prof) co-authored and edited the Fairchild papers a few years back, and Lécuyer a decade ago published "Making of Silicon Valley: 1930-1970" so this is an esteemed group working on "our history" right here in "our spot on the globe."

I felt compelled to write an Amazon review for Thackray's new book this morning.  You can find it at which is probably hopeless to put in your browser.  You can also get it by typing Thackray Moore Amazon and then going to the review section, where my very laudatory comments are maybe 2nd or 3rd in the "5" category.

Why do I write all of this here?

Well, it is stunning to me how little interest all of this history seems to generate.  One of the famous Traitorous Eight, Jay Last, provided nearly all of the material for the Brock/Lécuyer book out of a cardboard box of stuff he filched when he left Fairchild 46 years ago.   He is quoted as saying "no one cared for years; it was only when Bell Labs' 50th anniversary of the transistor did anyone realize that this stuff had value."

Thackray's book has endorsements from "everybody" including Walt Isaacson, Clay Christensen, John Hollar (the CEO of the Computer History Museum), Arthur Rock, George Dyson, George Schultz, Carver Mead, Craig Barrett, the Wall St. Journal--and almost no notice on the Amazon reviews page, and minimal sales here in our Valley.  Why?

Steve Blank has an answer--the "kids" think Silicon Valley started with Google and Facebook.  One of his students (Berkeley, wouldn't you know) thought maybe Apple was here earlier.   Asked about Intel, they drew a blank.

I did nineteen focus groups in the Bay area in 2013, asking four questions about the rapid rise of Internet connectivity and usage.  I got 32 companies and 57 people named by 211 people.  Only one named Cisco as one of the top three contributing companies, and when asked who at Cisco, the sober reply was "a married couple from 'here' at Stanford, I don't remember their names, but she was always grumpy."   Cisco, you might recall, built $500 Million dollars worth of routers, something like 60% of all routers in the world.  They are THE reason the Internet happened so fast.   But no one has written that story.

Walt Isaacson's book properly lauds Steve Jobs but ignores the 'lean years' from 1997-2003 when Apple missed the boom (and bust) and Steve's leadership for his first seven years back from exile cut Apple revenue in half and profits to zero.  Any board that wasn't fully controlled would have fired him long since.  There are lessons in these stories but the stories aren't being told, or read when they are told.

So what are the personal reasons I stopped posting for awhile?  Some of you might care....

We moved, to a bucolic horse ranch near the entrance to Sequoia National Park, once we were able to get terrestrial microwave connectivity instead of satellite beams only.  Now we can have a Zoom or Vidyo or Skype conversation with full lip-sync with anyone anywhere on the globe (if they have the same low-latency connection).  Amazing.

We're a little lean on water down here, though.  One of our two wells failed last month--not good for 35 horses drinking an average of 20 gallons per day in hot weather (and 109 degrees qualifies as 'hot' in my book).

The other reason is I've been trying to put a foundation on InnovaScapes Institute for more history and more legacy studies, and it has been a classic set of start-up issues.  But we're now making good strides, and able to talk about some progress.

And GUESS WHAT.  HPE launches November 1, 2015 and HPE Computing @ 50 happens on November 7, 2016.  That is the anniversary of the launch of the HP2116A at the Fall Joint Computer Conference--and there is a monumentally interesting set of stories to tell about that.

More about that later.  Tease, tease....

Good to be back

Friday, October 31, 2014

Barbara Waugh re Tim Cook

Barbara Waugh, one of HP's historic HR directors (she was at HP Labs for years), was a strong advocate 20+ years ago for rights for "domestic partners".  Her Facebook page yesterday saluted Tim Cook for his public stance and his rational.  See

Barbara, you may know, wrote a spirited, insightful book about the 'soft side' of HP some years ago; Joel Birnbaum penned a thoughtful foreword for the book, and I've used it in classes on occasion.

She has devoted much of her life to troubled youth, under-represented groups, and those held in disregard, contempt, or simply disadvantaged.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, grab it!

She maintains a blog, which cites a powerful biography of accomplishments

Her book, available at Amazon, is

The Soul in the Computer: The Story of a Corporate Revolutionary (2001)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fortune's Katherine Noyes on Dion Weisler

Who is Dion Weisler?
 OCTOBER 21, 2014, 7:27 AM EDT

A closer look at the seasoned PC executive tapped to lead the new HP Inc.

 “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” has long been a guiding rule in the military and corporate worlds. It also helps explain the choice of Dion Weisler to lead HP Inc., the printer and personal computer business that Hewlett-Packard plans to split off next year. Currently executive vice president of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems business, Weisler spent many years at Acer and Lenovo—the latter arguably HP’s most formidable competitor in the PC business today. For HP Inc., it’s important to keep that knowledge in-house as it sets out on its own.
There’s little doubt Weisler, 47, is going to need every advantage he can get in his upcoming new role. PC shipments are on a downward trend, margins are slim, and Lenovo has been padding its lead as the No. 1 vendor, with HP trailing behind. HP’s lacking strength in mobile technologies only adds to the pressure.
“The choices that Dion makes over the next few years will be critical to HP’s long-term success in the PPS space,” says Crawford Del Prete, chief research officer at IDC, the market research firm. “They can’t afford to ‘overprovision’ the market with various devices, yet at the same time, we think they need to expand in their ability to provide a more holistic experience to managing the mobile experience.”
Before taking on his current role, Australia-born Weisler served as senior vice president and managing director of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems group for the Asia-Pacific and Japan region. Weisler is credited with helping to turn Acer into a firm that “scared the other OEMs half to death,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group. Weisler is also seen as instrumental to Lenovo’s success in the category. At HP, “he turned the PC unit from a liability into an asset in a few short months,” Enderle says.
Weisler’s international experience is one of his greatest strengths, Stephen Nigro, senior vice president of HP’s Inkjet and Graphics Business, told Fortune. “He also has a lot of experience in managing businesses in multiple product categories. Personally, he’s a very detailed and fact-based sort of individual. Also, he likes to win. You want someone leading who wants to win and has competitive fire.”
Weisler, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computing from Australia’s Monash University, is famous for using surfing analogies to describe his strategic vision, Nigro says. He has long been an avid swimmer and used to swim competitively. “Dion is very engaging and has brought a refreshing sense of energy and enthusiasm to HP PPS,” says Bryan Ma, an IDC analyst in Singapore. Ma says he knew Weisler in his Lenovo days as well as his time at HP covering the Asia-Pacific region.
“A breath of fresh air” is how former HP executive Charles House describes Weisler. House, co-author of The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business Transformation and now executive director at InnovaScapes Institute, says he met Weisler earlier this year at a private training session for HP executives at a Stanford Graduate Business School workshop.
“He has a keen, wry sense of humor,” House says. “He believes in creativity, and actually seems to understand it; he exudes a high ethical standard—something for which Hurd and Bradley were polar opposites; and he seems self-confident, but not arrogant. He decidedly did not convey a macho attitude—just a quiet-mannered confidence.”
For IDC’s Del Prete, what is most impressive about Weisler is what he has not done. “He’s kept the product strategy very focused, developing some products just for specific countries—for example, phones in India,” Del Prete says. “This focus is very important as HP thinks about how it evolves in the client space.”
Weisler’s deep understanding of the supply chain will be very useful in his new position—particularly given the PC industry’s thin margins, says Bob O’Donnell, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research.  Indeed, “in terms of knowledge and experience, Weisler will be hard to beat,” says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
Weisler is already thought to be one of the best PC executives in the industry, Enderle says. “He could have a massive hit if he can get HP’s potentially market-leading, high-speed 3D printer to market.”
Mobility is another matter. Phones, tablets, perhaps even wearable devices—all are challenges that HP has yet to successfully address. “As we all know, mobility is much more than just devices, and Dion seems to recognize that,” Ma says. “But in almost all of my discussions with HP PPS, their response to ‘mobility’ is still very device-centric. In fact it’s HP’s Enterprise Services team that seems to be in a better position to transform businesses. So, I’m watching to see how HP Inc. will either build or partner with others—including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—on how to deliver an end-to-end solution rather than just talking about tablets like it does today.”
But that’s part of the job. Weisler’s new role “certainly isn’t a position for the faint of heart,” King says. If he succeeds, “the IT industry will be talking about it for years to come.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Adam Lashinsky at Fortune interviews Steve Milunovich re HP

For Hewlett-Packard, some hopeful thoughts
by Adam Lashinsky, Fortune,  OCTOBER 13, 2014, 12:18 PM EDT

Analyst Steve Milunovich says CEO Meg Whitman has her management team “playing to win” at a company that remains among the biggest in tech.
In 2005, when Carol Loomis wrote one of her signature, exhaustive articles for Fortune, this one about Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s troubled acquisition of Compaq, she quoted a Wall Street analyst who predicted that HP would one day be split up.
That analyst, Steven Milunovich, left the research business for a time. But he’s back at it again, now working at UBS, where he covers enterprise technology companies—that is, companies that sell technology to other companies as opposed to consumers. Milunovich is still paying careful attention to HP, which announced last week that it is splitting its consumer PC and printer businesses (to be called HP Inc) from its enterprise hardware and software lines (to be known as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise).
Reaction to the spin-off, beyond general praise for spin-offs, has been tepid. Writing in The New York Times over the weekend, James Stewart walks through HP’s generally weak prospects on both sides of its house. In his weekly “Monday Note,” Jean-Louis Gassée provides outsteanding historical commentary on HP’s culture, calling the company today a “tired conglomeration.”
As for Milunovich, he finds some reasons for guarded optimism about HP. I reached him at his desk in New York last week. Below is an edited version of our conversation.
Lashinsky: I wrote in an essay on the day the split was announced that HP didn’t much matter anymore, at least not the way it used to. Do you agree?
Milunovich: “HP’s obviously lost a lot of luster. It’s not the company it once was. But it is one of the largest consumer computing companies. Clearly Apple has surpassed it.  But HP is very close to being the number-one PC company globally. They are the premier printing company. Where they have faded is on the enterprise side, and the innovation halo they once had is long gone. But I wouldn’t say it doesn’t matter. I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration.” (Good for Milunovich.   How many $100B companies are there in high-tech in America?  Two—Apple and HP)
Talk about your 2005 prediction.
(Milunovich): “I apparently predicted that printers would be peeled off from PCs. I’ve always been a big believer in focus. It’s the most powerful factor in business. In the case of HP we always felt it was difficult being the premier consumer and enterprise company. Microsoft MSFT 1.03% clearly has had similar issues. In HP’s case there’s no silver bullet. No one unit is being held back. But it doesn’t encourage focus. I would argue that they should have done this years ago.”
As you note, HP isn’t separating printers and PCs, meaning the Compaq acquisition is remaining somewhat intact.
(Milunovich): “I’d argue that the Compaq acquisition wasn’t so bad. If you were going to try to be a major computer company, the Compaq deal made some sense. It’s not unlike the rumored EMC EMC -0.59% and HP combination currently [rumored], which could make some sense. Back then HP was weak in x86 systems [a type of computing based on Intel processors] and storage. Compaq gave them both. Clearly they would not be in the market position they are in today if they hadn’t done that acquisition.”  (we made this same case in 2009 in our book, The HP Phenomenon, to a fair amount of critique, esp. from HP oldtimers)
What is your assessment of HP’s management?
(Milunovich): “They’ve lost so much talent over the years. I don’t think it can ever be what it once was. (Nor can Cisco, Intel, Microsoft—did we mention DEC and Sun Microsystems and Data General?)  But I do believe CEO Meg Whitman has made improvements. We did a conference call recently with Mohamad Ali, HP’s chief strategist. Meg has brought to HP this “Playing to Win” approach, which Procter & Gamble uses. She learned it there because [P&G CEO] A.G. Lafley used it in the 2000s. (Excuse me, but didn’t Meg leave P &G at age 25 in 1981, twenty years before Lafley apparently brought it to P&G?)   They have this strategic framework. I had never heard boo about this. (Clearly, Milunovich hasn’t spent much time around HP lately!) It’s nine to 12 months old. I heard she had an offsite with the top 100 or so managers at HP. And she said, “I want you all to read this book. I’m going to test you on it.” The flight attendants noticed. They wanted to know why everybody on this flight to Las Vegas was reading the same book. It gives you a sense of the discipline there.”
Lashinsky: HP has been talking a lot about the cloud lately, but I don’t have a sense of how its cloud computing strategy is different from the competition, several of whom have been at it longer than HP.
Milunovich: “In general, observers are unclear. We talked recently to Bill Veghte [the head of HP’s enterprise group and a longtime Microsoft executive]. They’ve had three different management teams running their cloud strategy. The IT has been rebranded as Helion. It has several features, many of which aren’t available yet. So, for HP, that is a work in progress.”
Lashinsky: Toward the end of her article almost a decade ago, Carol Loomis asked Carly Fiorina who the leading technology company of the day was. Fiorina responded that there was no one company, but in retrospect Apple exerted far more than its fair share of leadership. What would your answer be today?
Milunovich: “Apple today is clearly the world’s leading consumer tech company. And IBM is the leading enterprise company. But Microsoft, Oracle, and HP aren’t far behind. The HP Inc company is probably pretty close to half consumer and half enterprise. There’s still the question of how HP fits in. I think the split is to better position the enterprise side. They are vulnerable there. Their cloud strategy is unclear to people.”
Last question: How about you? What’s different today from your previous stint as an analyst?

Milunovich: “It’s very similar to the early ’90s. We’re going through one of those disruptive periods when everything is changing. The lesson for investors is this: Get out of the incumbents and focus on the pure-plays. Going out to Silicon Valley is even more depressing than it was in the 1990s, with new players saying they are going to destroy the incumbents. It’s depressing because my clients own the companies that are under attack. But EMC and IBM—and even HP—are not going away quickly.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Forbes a week later

HP And EMC Call Off Merger Talks--Structural Issues Remain
Forbes, October 16, 2014
Ben Kepes, Contributor

Citing unnamed sources Reuters reports that HP and EMC have ended merger talks with an agreement not to progress. The deal, had it gone through, would have created one of the biggest technology vendors and potentially helped shore up the fortune of two beleaguered companies. It would have also introduced massive confusion and duplication on the two companies.
Activists had been pushing for EMC to explore new options, meanwhile HP had announced plans to split its own organization into two separate businesses.

This is an important development within the context of widespread legacy vendor splits – in an interview at the DreamForce conference yesterday, Venture Capitalist and HP board member Marc Andreessen stated his view that practically every legacy technology vendor (and he defined legacy as anyone over 20 years old) will split itself up in an effort to find a degree of agility and chase innovation. Notably both HP and eBay EBAY +0.15%, companies that Andreessen is a director of, are splitting themselves up.  (irony: I was giving a speech in San Francisco that day, 'forgot completely about the DreamForce conference' which meant that my choice of King Street, and then 3rd to go cross-town put me at the Convention center where 'everything' was jammed, took 40 minutes to get to Market St).

The broader context of all of this is, of course, the disruption and dis-aggregation that is apparent in the industry. The growth of cloud computing and the attendant toxicity on the revenue streams of traditional technology vendors result in serious pressure to innovate. The structural makeup of these organizations – optimized for supply chain efficiency and monolithic product and service delivery, is a direct impediment to agility.  (Agility here can be defined several ways.  One, of course, is innovation, and often that is what is meant by these words.  But it is far more than supply chain efficiency and monolithic product and service delivery that get in the way--this is a huge psychological barrier for most managers, a topic we deal with regularly)

An HP/EMC merger would have done the opposite of encouraging agility and instead created a complex franken-vendor that would have been left standing still trying to sort out internal issues and unable to respond to market forces.

Activists may not like this – but I believe that in the age of dis-aggregation, disintermediation and a new way of delivering enterprise technology, this is the best outcome for both businesses. Of course issues remain – HP’s split will help, but not cure them. For EMC it is less clear – what it does with regards its ownership of VMware (and startup Pivotal) is unclear. Problems certainly exist, but this merger would have only introduced new ones into the mix.