Monday, October 28, 2013

Predictions and performance

Today Apple announced 33.7M iPhones for their 4th quarter ended September 30, up from 26.5M a year ago, and flat vs. last quarter.  Street expectations were anywhere from 3l to 37M, so they 'got it right' while the group I touted last week, ARGUS INSIGHTS, was low, @ 27 to 31M.   They, of course, are working on their algorithms--they've hit seven of the last eight quarters, but no one's perfect, especially in this grab-bag marketplace.

What about Apple?  Well, with Carl Icahn now involved, stay tuned.  Maybe Meg should call him?

Nope, perish that thought.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

ARGUS INSIGHTS--A good idea?

We've become acquainted with ARGUS INSIGHTS, a boutique crowd-source information provider that just put a bold prediction in place... doesn't have much to do DIRECTLY with HP, but it could be valuable downstream.

They read "content" in customer posts, whether Twitter, email, blogs, Facebook, you name it.  By read content, they actually assess the meaning, not just the occurrence, of key words being used.  Example:
iPhone 5C.   They have been predicting forward Apple sales for the past eight quarters using these correlation techniques (the founder is an old IDEO and D'School pro), and today they issued a press release saying that this next quarter for Apple (reports on Oct. 28) will be dismal compared to current street forecasts.  What if they're right?

To be below some 34 different analysts, let alone Apple's own 'guidance', is daunting; to be right would be notable.  And if right, as they've mostly been for eight quarters, would say, "Hummn, maybe Meg and troops should engage these folks"

Years ago, we tried in my own HP division to "listen to the customers".  It led us to abandon chasing test equipment for minicomputer designers, testers, installers, and maintenance folk, and chase the brand new microcomputer business (this in the days of the Intel 4004,4040, 8008 and 8080--long before the IBM PC).  My own bosses thought we were nuts--I wasn't sure myself.  It turned out the customers were onto something, and we got about a three year headstart on the business.  Nice.

What if this guy has something?

You might have, you doubtless did, hear it here first.  ARGUS INSIGHTS

See the press release at:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Posted HP articles at ResearchGate

I've got an opportunity to talk to a historian's conference this next Friday--about how HP 'got into computers' and parenthetically, how Beckman failed to do so.

The paper and the 'dataset' (which means the PowerPoint slides) are entered in my ResearchGate file at

If you don't know about ResearchGate, don't be surprised.  But it is a fairly nice repository for papers and supporting documents (like PowerPoint Slides) 'over the years' for the 'bigger events;' like a conference or a publication.

With respect to recent HP work, there is also one about "HP--the Renewal Challenge" which is a set of slides I used recently for a keynote address at the Stanford Graduate Business School for a largely HP audience of senior managers.  It was great good fun, and especially nice to hear folk at the end say they didn't expect anything about "recent affairs" from someone who left the company a long time ago.  But, we surprised them, especailly with the set of Apple slides at the end

You might find some of this interesting.  Drop me a note of what matteres most to you

HP and Beckman Instruments

Hewlett-Packard's leaders--Dave and Bill--argued eloquently that they DID NOT WANT TO GO INTO COMPUTING, for years.   And for several years, they even ignored digital instruments totally.  Hence the rise of the Digital voltmeter industry in San Diego from 1952-1958.  HP's early entrees ('58) fell flat; it took five more years to build the HP3440A and retake the lead in DVMs.

And no technician could write as fast as a DVM could measure.  Ergo, how about a digital data logger?

Some wanted to build a computer (they weren't too different from a data logger).  Dave doggedly insisted that the HP2116 was AN INSTRUMENT CONTROLLER; Hewlett said "I don't want to mess with computers; don't try to take a fortified hill."

Arnold Beckman, by contrast, wanted very much to computerize his spectrometry instruments, building a giant analogic kluge to do so, and then asking Bill Shockley to 'shrink it' for him with the new devices called transistors.  Then he read Joh Diebold's book about Automation, and imagined building digital instrument controllers to corner the industrial automation market.  Beckman WANTED to be in COMPUTERS.

How big were the companies?  And what about General Radio and Tektronix?

In 1941, GR was $2.6M in revenue; Beckman $250K, and HP $100K (Tek = $0)

In 1947, GR was $4.7M, Beckman was $2.7M, HP $850K, and Tek sold $30K as it started

In 1952, the critical years for Beckman's idea, GR was $8.4M, Beckman a whopping $20M, while HP had just passed GR with sales of $11M, and Tek was a surging $5.5M.

Beckman funded Shockley Labs (first in Pasadena, then in Palo Alto when his mother sickened) in '55.

HP didn't look at computing for another decade.

In 1965, HP was $165M, Beckman $100M, Tek $81M, and GR a distant last at $19.3M

By 1975, HP had a few scientific computers, along with desktop and handheld calculators.  By 1979, HP had a working HP 3000 for business computer users even.

In 1979, HP had revenues of $3.1B (yes, BILLION), Tek $911M, Beckman $300M, and GR $158M

So, one 'big guy' (GR) sat out the revolution, one who wanted computing badly failed at it, but still outgrew GR by nearly 400% between 1947 and 1979.   HP and Tektronix taken together were only one-eighth the size of GR and Beckman in 1947; they were nine times larger in 1979.  So the ones who didn't start out to be in computing, but wound up "in it" with CPUs and peripherals shifted vis-a-vis the 'leading instrumentation companies by an astounding 7200% in those three decades.

Almost without trying?  Odd, the winners didn't want to play, and the losers wanted badly to play and win.

Collaboration and Where You Work

We did a study at Media X@Stanford University when I ran the group, circa 2007, which revealed startling numbers about virtualization of work.  We surveyed six large multinationals--Sun, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, HP, and Cisco--finding that, ON AVERAGE, 75% of the professional workforces in those companies worked on at least one project with colleagues on another continent; and half of them worked on three or more such projects simultaneously.   Worse (or better, depending on your view), of those on such projects, 20% had NEVER met their boss face-to-face.  Half of them never expected to!

How does this relate to whether you should work from home or not?  Well, indirectly, it relates closely-what is the nature of the work you are doing, and with whom do you have to associate?  We did a number of studies in this vein, and at Intel, the net result was that in 2008, they put a ban in place very similar to what Yahoo and HP are now doing.  It cost them some of their best talent, and it is not clear from the revenue lines that it helped build more creativity, but of course the demise of the leadership PC business dwarfs all the rest of this, right?

I'd tout three books, one by my colleague Ray Price--Serial Innovators, Stanford Press, 2012, and two by Karen Sobel-Lojeski at SUNY Stonybrook.  She writes eloquently about Virtual Distance, and how you build sympatico teams independently of distance or 'home schooling'.

Seems odd for a company that built the first sideband email system (on the first Cisco router sold commercially, two years before they sold their second one), that pioneered widespread video conferencing for internal usage, that pioneered HP Halo (predating and performance-wise outperforming Cisco Telepresence in many ways), that now the answer is "come to work"

Meg and Marissa

Just when we thought we'd heard it all, out comes this one:

Oct 8, 2013, 6:58am PDT

Hewlett-Packard curbs work from home, echoing Yahoo policy

Scott Eells/Bloomberg
HP CEO Meg Whitman might face similar backlash for a change in the work-from-home policy.
Vincent Lara-Cinisomo, Web contributor
Hewlett-Packard Co. is discouraging employees from working at home, telling them they should return to the mothership if they can. The policy echoes Yahoo's decision earlier this year to end work-from-home for most employees.
According to an HP memo obtained by AllThingsD, the Palo Alto company says the policy is meant to create "a more connected workforce and drive greater collaboration and innovation.”
Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, who was appointed in 2011, is trying to return some luster to the company's faded Silicon Valley brand (and share price). In that regard, she finds herself in the same position as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who in February announced that employees who worked from home would have to return to the office. The goal? To foster collaboration and accelerate the company's attempt to reinvigorate itself.
The HP memo said, “During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck. We recognize that in the past, we may have asked certain employees to work from home for various reasons. We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be.”
Whitman is expected to address the change Wednesday at a meeting with analysts in San Francisco.
A source told AllThingsD that HP isn't instituting an outright ban on working from home. Neither did Yahoo, since some employees were granted exemptions.
Mayer received both criticism and praise when she curbed working from home. Critics said the move alienated some talented workers. Advocates said she effectively washed out less dedicated, motivated employees and had signaled a needed cultural change.
It's unclear how many employees would be affected by Hewlett-Packard's new policy. According to AllThingsD, HP employs more than 300,000 globally. Yahoo had about 11,700 when it made its policy change and some reports indicated about 10 percent of workers were affected.