Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Robert X. Cringely weighs in

Metroactive.com, the little San Jose rag laying around in fast-food joints and coffee shops, this week has Robt. X. Cringely's SV411.com column headed "Losing the HP Way." As usual, Cringely doesn't pull punches. He cites the Agilent spinoff in 1999 under Lew Platt as follows: "While this made sense at the time, and even today, there were unintended consequences of that spinoff -- the loss of HP's corporate soul.... Lew Platt blew it in my view."

Cringely mentions the 10% time for employees working on their own ideas as an early HP idea, rather than Google who now gets credit for 'inventing it'. Robt even says (correctly) that if you needed lab stock for your 'wild-ass idea' or anything else needed to do the job, say a magnetron or a barrel of acetone, it could be taken without question on Friday afternoons.

The cruelest irony he notes is that Apple will now be building its new spaceship intergalactic headquarters atop what used to be one of HP's most important labs. He's right. Might be right in his final sentence too -- "HP may have no route back to greatness."

Compared to today's idiotic articles quoting asinine pundits in the analyst world who think it fine to speculate that Oracle will buy a beaten-down HP to give Hurd satisfaction for burying Leo, Cringely does a straight-forward sobering analysis. HPites everywhere (the old kind) are saddened beyond words.

5 comments:

svg2011 said...

Sad indeed... I used to work for a company called Hewlett-Packard, named after 2 fine individuals, but was recently laid off after 30+ years by a company called HP - merely a jumble of some letters on Wall Street.

Ian Osborne, Grid Man Now! said...

It occurs to me that the spin out of Agilent, of which little of the original HP T&M organisation actually remains, really left an organisation which expanded through massive acquisitions of Compaq and EDS to become the size it is today, or was yesterday. What was the corporate soul at the start of this journey? Did the Computer Business and Printer Business really operate the same way as the rest of the company? Most of our folklore grew up from the days of Hewlett and Packard and, Dick Hackborn aside, the rest of the new HP was run by largely colourless folk. Until the Carly show turned up! Is that indeed the point where the HP-Way disappeared?

chuck said...

there are many 'turning points' in the HP evolution where people thought/said that HP lost its heart and soul. Bruce Wholey in 1978 was scathing that the Computing business and John Young had 'killed the HP Way' (pp 244/45 of my book). Wholey was HUGE for the early and mid-years, and knew Young very very well.
But most would say that Peripherals and Computers 'never' assimilated into "the HP Way" as 'us oldtimers' wanted, or knew it.
My take is that growth almost always 'kills' the personal touch, and it was that personal touch of Dave and Bill, with their big hearts and strong ethics and huge expectation of contribution and excellence, that virtually no one could replace.

Ian Osborne, Grid Man Now! said...

Agreed. Though there were some notable exceptions. I admired John Doyle for his humanity, I'll never forget him rushing to the aid of a woman struggling to manage a case at Lyon airport when I was accompanying him in Corporate Engineering days. Or Joel Birnbaum, a giant of a technologist, yet such a gentle touch where required. For me they embodied the HP Way in the best manner.

marc-brien said...

Chuck, I liked your book … a lot. We’ve published a 21-page free pdf “e.Paper” that analyzes the business model that Hurd imposed on HP, why it was unsustainable, and why Apotheker will necessarily begin moving back towards a system that will look more like the old HP. The download and a related blog post can be accessed here http://www.domicity.com/?p=782.