Friday, July 25, 2014

Valley historians -- Mike Malone at it again

Mike Malone, well known Silicon Valley author, has just released his book about Andy Grove, Bob Noyce, and Gordon Moore, the trio who created the modern Intel.  He calls it The Intel Trinity, likening them to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in  a semi-religious way.  He was interviewed yesterday at the Computer History Museum by Scott Budman, also a legendary Silicon Valley guy.

It was a brown bag luncheon, and the room was chock full of old Intel and other semiconductor folk. Mike polled the group--how many have been in semi's for twenty thirty, forty, even fifty years.  Most of them had hands in the air for quite a while.

Mike is a keen observer of the scene--has been for forty+ years in the Valley, with twenty books to his credit as well as tremendous journalistic skills.  He is a fascinating speaker, wry and witty and very timely with trenchant observations.

He also is an unabashed enthusiast for his topics, almost always, which sometimes clouds the reality but hardly ever in a way that causes much discomfort except for those purists who prefer accuracy in their history.  He did a credible job for this crowd, winning applause for his characterizations of Noyce especially as the successor "mayor of Silicon Valley' after Dave Packard.  Apt.

In fact, he did a great job yesterday about including Dave and HP as a major driver of Silicon Valley--he just cannot help himself, he bleeds Valley Blue, whether from HP or Intel or cisco or Apple (clearly he left Oracle out, by choice).

You may all recall that Mike wrote "Biil 'n Dave" in 2007.  He knew that our book was underway, in fact HP (a Compaq PR whiner) invited him to 'compete' with us after the Carly dust-up.   He generated the idea for the HP Origins CD, a wonderful little thing that is now available on YouTube for the interested viewer.  I was worried at the time because Mike too had been at HP for years, and is a gifted writer--we feared his book would render our efforts futile.  He met me though and said, "I'm writing about Dave and Bill, not the strategic history of HP. Our books will be complementary to each other--don't worry!"

He of course was right.  The pair of books augment Packard's own laconic version, and I think it was great that we all did the work.

I had somewhat the same feeling yesterday.  The book is a great paean to the three Intel folk--all of whom I got to know, fortuitously.  Noyce was long dead when I joined Intel, but I'd known him early. And, seriously, we've thought about doing an Intel book--for all the work that has been done, it is astonishing to me how some very important details, especially re the intersection of HP and Intel for years, have been ignored or glossed.

At one level, I'd hoped he'd have those elements in this book.  But, on reflection, how could he?  He's a journalist, not an engineer and not a historian, and not a C-level executive.  So his view is from his perspective rather than those I might take.  Much like Walt Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs (almost universally lauded unless you knew the Apple story up close), Mike's leaves much room for others--maybe we'll add our version at some future date.

Meanwhile, this is terrific reading.  Buy it for a cross-country plane ride.  And send Mike a note, telling him THANKS for keeping all the Valley legends alive.

Sad passing of Marc Mislanghe

Marc Mislanghe died last week.

His contribution to HP history memories will not be forgotten.  Many of you have visited his website where he proudly assembled more than 600 old HP instruments and products, keeping most of them in working order.  He and John Minck have spent the past several years soliciting and posting various HP memoir stories, probably one of the best such sources for any company history.

Marc was a relatively young man, early 60s, who worked for HP France in the 80s and 90s, and felt so fortunate to be involved with a company that built such effective measurement equipment that he devoted the rest of his life to preserving that history.

The story of how he met Kenneth Kuhn, another avid HP fan and collector, is herein told as a reminisce by Kuhn:
That is very sad news.  Marc had so much spirit and so believed in HP concepts.  Marc was a true inspiration. I am glad I had the pleasure of knowing him.

Marc and I met through email many years ago -- I think maybe around 2003.  I had put in a very high bid on ebay for an old rare HP610 UHF generator​.  I thought there would be no one in the world other than me who would want that thing.  At the last second Marc put in a higher bid and beat me.  In those days ebay disclosed the bidders (now they are hidden for security reasons).  Marcs ebay ID was mmhewpack (hewpack was the teletype ID for Hewlett Packard in the old days) and he had outbid me a number of times in the past so I knew that ID well -- although I did not yet know Marc or what he was up to.  I had won another item from the seller of the HP610 and in various emails the seller learned of my collection of old HP instruments.  The seller informed me that he had had similar emails with Marc and knew of his growing collection and thought we should get together.  So he sent me Marc's email.  I emailed Marc and told him of my web site and Marc responded with great enthusiasm.  Marc was planning a website too.  Marc felt bad about beating me for the HP610 but I told him that was all right -- there would be another one show up and I would get that -- and I did.  Marc sent me an early version of the presentation he did back in 2007 when all of us gave talks at HP HQ.  I helped Marc with the English translations so that it would present well.  This was around 2003 and I had visions that someday there would be a presentation at HP -- four years later that happened.  Marc and I worked together a lot over the next years and I helped him with the English on his website.  Later Marc would become very fluent in English.

It was a great pleasure to meet Marc in 2007 at HP.  That was Marc's first trip to the United States.  I will never forget the lunch we had at a seafood restaurant just down the street on El Camino after our presentations at HP that morning.  Marc was highly impressed with the service at the restaurant.  He was amazed that the waitress kept bread on the table and made frequent stops to refill drinks and ask if there was anything else we needed.  Marc asked if this was common in American restaurants and I told him yes.  He then told me that in France one would never get service this good.  He said that the waiters were all on salary and did not care to do anything even if you waved at them to get their attention -- they would just look away.

I hope someone can take over Marc's website and maintain it.  That is the best website there is for HP instrument history.  Marc put his whole life into that.  That is very rare dedication.  I don't know what will happen to his huge collection of HP instruments.  I would like to think that HP, Agilent, and now Keysight Technologies could acknowledge Marc in some way.  Marc went to great efforts to preserve their great history -- much of which is in danger of being lost.

When Bill and Dave ran things it was all about people.  Now in many corporations it is all about making numbers for vulture stockholders and people are inconvenient commodities. Marc had the Bill and Dave spirit.  I know that spirit well because I have it too.  But in this modern world when I try to share that spirit and show what it can accomplish most people think I am nuts.  But I have the luxury of knowing the history.  It is most of the world that is nuts, not people like Marc, or me, or others who also believe in great things.

I think I could fill a book with fond memories of Marc.  I will be revisiting those in the next days.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Madam Chairman

From the news services, sorry I missed this on Friday
HP's Unearned Move to Make Meg Whitman Its Chairman
By Diane Brady July 18, 2014

In any other company, the decision to give your chief executive the title of chairman might simply be a matter of debate. But Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) isn’t an average company.
The once-revered tech giant holds a special place in the annals of boardroom antics. In recent years its directors have approved some truly terrible deals, including the $11.1 billion acquisition of Autonomy that turned out to be worth 80 percent less. The board fired popular CEO Mark Hurd, giving him tens of millions in severance, and then hired a replacement, Léo Apotheker, that most of them hadn’t met, only to fire him 11 months later. Add in the bickering, the public accusations, the embarrassing leaks, and the even more embarrassing spying scandal, and it’s easy to see why several governance experts once dubbed HP’s board the worst in U.S. history.
Luckily, under Chairman Ralph Whitworth, HP’s board seemed to have some measure of credibility with shareholders waiting to see if CEO Meg Whitman could fix the mess she inherited. Between the writedowns and 34,000 job cuts, it’s been a tough slog. But Whitman has made some progress, and the stock was starting to recover.
All the more reason to question why the board suddenly gave her the job of chairman this week. For one thing, it looks like a reward for a job well done–a verdict even Whitman herself might feel is a tad premature at this point. And HP is going against the growing trend among corporate boards to split the chairman and CEO roles in an effort to boost a board’s independence.
Whether an independent chairman actually improves a board’s performance is open to debate. Noel Tichy, a management consultant and professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, isn’t a fan of splitting the roles. He thinks it undermines a leader’s effectiveness and can promote a dysfunctional dynamic where directors play the chairman off the CEO in the same way kids try to pit mom against dad. Still, Tichy agrees it’s too early to heap accolades on Whitman, who was plucked from the board to take over as CEO. At this point, he says, “they’re at base camp at the bottom of Mount Everest.”
All the more reason for HP’s board to aim for best-in-class governance instead of bucking the trend. Nell Minow of GMI Ratings describes HP as “a serial offender” with shareholders. “To unthinkingly give the same person the CEO and chairman role shows that they still don’t get it,” Minow says. “Given the many failures that this board has had, you have to wonder why they didn’t even explain this move.”
Will they give lead director Pat Russo more authority? Has Whitman been hampered by not running the board? Do directors realize they’re going against the advice of most governance experts in giving Whitman both jobs? For most other boards, such questions might suggest a lack of trust. For HP’s board, it’s more like standard operating procedure.
This board hasn’t yet earned the full trust of shareholders. To give Whitman the chairman role and say little beyond a bland corporate statement illustrates why. The issue isn’t whether Whitman has earned the right to be chairman. Shareholders should ask whether HP’s board has earned the right to make that deci

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

3D Printing

Casting about for ‘news’ about HP that could help the momentum play that Whitman seeks so avidly, I found an item by Trevis Team, writing in Forbes’ Investing column on March 28, 2014 (my notes in red): 
HP CEO Meg Whitman at the shareholders meeting on March 20, announced that the company is planning to enter the 3D printer arena by the end of this fiscal year. (HP’s fiscal year ends October 31.) Although, 3D printing technology is over a decade old (actually more like twenty years, for HP’s original patents-CHH), it has recently caught the imagination of manufacturing industry, as some of the advancements in the field have reduced price of owning, and manufacturing with, a 3D printer. As a result, the 3D printing industry is expected to grow at a robust pace of over 30% per year in the coming years. At present, small companies such as 3D Systems (NASDAQ: DDD) and Stratasys operate in this industry.  However, with HP’s entry into this market, competition will surely heat up. While HP has not divulged much information on its product offering, in this article, we will size up the 3D printer market and analyze why HP is entering this market. Additionally, we will try to analyze how HP’s foray will impact the 3D printing industry. 
Sizing The 3D Printer Market
The global three-dimensional (3D) printing (also known as additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping or direct manufacturing) industry is widely considered a disruptive force to a number of manufacturing practices around the world, as it reduces the need to maintain and operate factories that have significant capital requirements.
According to Gartner, the combined end-user spending on 3D printers (3DPs) is estimated to be $412 million in 2013, a year-on-year growth of 43%.  Enterprise spending is estimated to total more than $325 million in 2013, while the consumer segment is estimated to reach nearly $87 million. Gartner also projects that 3DP spending will grow by 62% in 2014, reaching $669 million, with enterprise spending of $536 million and consumer spending of $133 million. Gartner estimates the number of units shipped to increase from 56,507 in 2013 to over 98,065 in 2014 (don’t you love the precision, if not the accuracy?  CHH). It also expects the units shipped to double in 2015.
Most of the growth in 3D printing spending is currently driven by one-off or small-run models for product design and industrial prototyping, jigs and fixtures used in manufacturing processes and mass customization of finished goods. However, as the 3D printing technology advances, both in hardware and software technology together with reduced materials cost and complexity of creating 3D printed items, its applications will expand to mass market areas such as architecture, defense, medical products and jewelry design. As a result, according to Wholers Associates (not exactly a household name for ‘futures’ guesses?), the sale of 3D printing products and services, which includes printers, ink and products, is expected to grow to over $10.8 billion by 2021. However, this number pales in comparison to the revenues of the global manufacturing industry, which runs in trillions of dollars. Considering the market size of the manufacturing industry, we believe that the addressable size for 3D printer industry and its products is very large.
Why Is HP Entering 3D Printer Market Now?
HP is a leader in the 2D printer market, with a 40% market share in 2013 according to IDC. The company believes that 3D printing is a natural progression of its 2D printer business, where it has a sizeable share. In its shareholders meeting held last week, HP announced that it has plans to enter the commercial 3D printing market by the end of this fiscal year. The main reason why HP is entering the 3D printer market now is because a host of core patents such as apparatus for producing parts by selective sintering have either expired or are expiring within a year (sort of supports the notion that this is oder than a decade, ehh?). As a result, HP won’t have to spend huge amount of time and money on developing new technology and processes for discovering how to model 3-D objects. Furthermore, the high cost of consumables in 3D printing has been a major barrier to innovation in the field. However, HP claims to have solved a number of technical problems such as low quality print output and long printing time that have hindered broader adoption of the high-tech manufacturing process.  (This is the first key sentence in the report).
HP’s Foray To Positively Impact 3D Printing Industry
HP’s foray in 3D printing will add some momentum to a fledgling industry that is dominated by smaller players and could help counter criticism that the technology is still too immature for widespread consumer adoption. Moreover, HP’s entry will bolster innovation in the industry as it has deep pockets (HP has nearly $16 billion in cash on its books), and can easily fund any R&D to improve future processes or ink (Plastic filament), which costs anywhere between $25 to $45 for a kilogram depending on the quality and manufacturer.
Additionally, HP can expedite the adoption process since it can mass produce 3D printers cheaply and market it through its well established distribution channel. HP has a relationship with several companies to whom it supplies its printer and PC. It can help these companies to manufacture some of their products as well. Such a move will create synergy not only for HP, but for its customers as well.
Although, the company did not disclose much about the product that might be introduced, it said that it will first target “enterprise” customers, which are comprised of businesses, government agencies and other organizations. While it is too early to speculate, we believe that most of the revenues from 3D printer will come from ink sale rather than sale of unit printers, primarily due to the fact that as adoption of 3D printing gains traction, manufacturers will require more ink (duh, pretty insightful?).

Monday, July 7, 2014

More about 'The Machine'

Just saw Bill Harrell's description for Digital Trends of HP's "Machine"     See it at:!94DVM

Might be worth considering how this timeline compares with Birnbaum's Spectrum from the '80's.

We hired Joel in January 81, and by 83 he had some nice prototypes running at HP Labs.  By fall '84, Birnbaum and Doyle moved to Cupertino to revamp the computer group leadership, a group which had been resistant to RISC ideas (and to HP Labs in general).

In May 1985, Bill Worley among others outlined HP/PA (HP Precision Architecture) in the HP Journal.  In February 1986, HP had a major press conference release to announce the machines.  In a stern voice at the end of the press meeting, Packard dolefully pointed out that the machine was not ready, pissing off everyone else on the dias.

In November 1986, the first machine shipped, not exactly a big hit, but at least 'on the street'

Between 1987 and 1989, the big news was that the new migration center was able to make the novel HP RISC architecture handle substitution into DEC and IBM bastions--not yet outperforming them, but at least able to offer an alternative, usually much cheaper and in places more reliable.

In Febrary 1991--yes, just ten years after starting--the Snakes project--the HP 700-- led by Denny Georg, was announced and delivered.  It was the first RISC machine with industry-leading performance.

Now, granted, things happen quicker these days, and designers and managers are smarter, right?

But, the HP plans for "the Machine" sound just a bit optimistic.  Hope they're right!