At COFES last week, I met Chris Smith, a long-time sales person for HP. Chris, now with Cloud Pragmatics in Sunnyvale gave a great session on the dynamics of choosing to put valuable company data into "the cloud" as well as some of the pitfalls of running a service data-center. Apropos the discussion about HP Moonwalk, and what the chances are that it can drive renewal activity for HP. Chris spanned John Young through Leo Apotheker... and didn't look much the worse for wear.
Last night at the UIDP Caltech meeting, Todd Cleland, who is now the Industry Relations Director for the University of Washington in Seattle, spent time talking about his time at HP -- 1988 through this past fall. He spent several years in the Periphersls CTO office, reporting to Patrick Scaglia who reported into Shane Dickey. So Todd spanned John Young through Meg Whitman. He had marvelous stories about many research and development efforts they tried in order to broaden the printing and imaging lines -- some of them were truly exciting ideas as I listened. The issue: "How do you get a $50M business to be noticed by a $25B operation?" He had chapter and verse on this, not unlike the stories I got years ago from CEO Lew Lehr and the 3M CTO, Les Krohl -- or the lament at GE from CTO Roland Schmitt and his chief Biz Dev guy, Fred Geary, not to mention the input from Ian Ross at Bell Labs. These are stories worth capturing in a monograph; they illustrate so well what goes wrong in larger company innovation. The Industrial Research Institute (started 75 years ago by the National Academy, I learned on this trip) has done a fair amount of work on this topic.
I also met Lou Witkin last night, who had a full 41 years at "the mother ship" HP, leaving last year with "that incredible package". He started in 1969, hard to imagine, so he overlapped both Dave and Bill all the way to Meg. Now that's a tour! His expertise at HP included much time in University relations, and in Contracts and Negotiations. So he is running his own consulting firm, Witkin Consulting, in the Bay Area. Again, nostalgia for a moment, and then discussion about whether HP is 'coming back'. He is cautiously optimistic, as were the other two.
Hope springs eternal.