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Ex-Board Member Says HP Is Committing 'Corporate Suicide' 394

theodp writes "If Apple's looking for a seamless transition, advises the NYT's James B. Stewart, it definitely shouldn't look to Hewlett Packard. In the year after HP CEO Mark Hurd was told to hit-the-road-Jack, HP — led by new CEO Leo Apotheker — has embarked on a stunning shift in strategy that has left many baffled and resulted in HP's fall from Wall Street grace (its stock declined 49%). The apparent new focus on going head-to-head with SAP (Apotheker's former employer) and Oracle (Hurd's new employer) in enterprise software while ignoring the company's traditional strengths, said a software exec, is 'as if Alan Mulally left Boeing to join Ford as CEO, and announced six months later that Ford would be making airplanes.' Former HP Director Tom Perkins said, 'I didn't know there was such a thing as corporate suicide, but now we know that there is.'"
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Ex-Board Member Says HP Is Committing 'Corporate Suicide'

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  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:27AM (#37240234)
    HP looks at the way IBM dumped the (cutthroat margin) PC and laptop market and survives on consulting and big iron and fantasizes that they can do the same. The days when HP could produce ANY world-class widget ended when they stopped being an instrument company at heart, probably in Lou Platt's day, but certainly by the end of the Evil Queen's reign. By then, they'd lost (or gotten rid of) all their top engineering talent, and were no longer one of "the top 10 places to work in the world". The Compaq, later (attempted) PWC and finally (completed) EDS and Palm deals are just the fenceposts along the way of HP losing its soul.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:29AM (#37240244) Journal
    I've heard that their Big Serious Expensive has its points; but every interaction with HP software that I've had down at the "commodity x86s and their peripherals" level has filled me with an unquenchable desire for bloody vengeance upon every last persons responsible for it.

    Their winCE thin clients have had timekeeping bugs in certain models(that engineering kindly verified and then decided not to fix...) Their linux ones have glaring security deficiencies that they wouldn't even acknowledge our bug reports about(Hypothetically, if you were adding a diagnostic page that allowed the user of a 'kiosk' system to use ping to verify connectivity, would you implement it by giving them a freeform text field and then prepending 'ping' to whatever they entered and dumping it straight to the shell without any sanitization? Well, the input "$IP_ADDRESS && xterm" certainly suggests that HP did... For extra credit, the 'kiosk' program was running under a passwordless account on the sudoers list...)

    The firmware of their network printers has been a mess for years, and their printer drivers(even for the workgroup networked printers with PCL/Postscript, let's not even talk about the direct-attached inkjet shit) actually seems to be getting worse as time goes on. Servers and workstations are ok, largely by virtue of being more or less stock intel or AMD kit, with drivers provided by people who don't utterly suck.

    I know that hardware's margins don't keep the Wall street boys happy; but what sort of insanity could convince HP that they are a software company?
  • WebOS - Try Samsung (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:30AM (#37240246)

    I was personally looking forward to more WebOS devices though.

    Well, reportedly, Samsung is still interested in WebOS. Where before they were interested in licensing it off of HP ( [] ), they may now just grab it outright.. even if only as a precautionary move to the recent Google-buys-Motorola move ( [] ).

    Personally I'm not sure why they'd be doing that. They're going strong with Android - which, while heavily Google-influenced, is under governance of the OHA - while on their lower-end systems they've got their own OS already - Bada.

    Though if there's any chance of WebOS going forward, Samsung would be a good place to start. Them or Huawei, perhaps. Not seeing HTC being interested.

  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:39AM (#37240306) Homepage

    I was looking at ebay over the weekend and the Touchpad 16GB auctions were all closing at around $250-$270 - and we are talking about 1 auction closing per minute!
    So, this means that they could have sold the Touchpad at around $300 (more for the 32GB version) and still sell-out in a few days. This would have been at a loss of R&D, as the cost of making them is astimated at around $315 & $330 for the 16GB and 32GB versions.
    Now, after selling out in a few days they would have a big installed WebOS base, so maybe the app store would take off.
    But nooo, they HAVE to sell their tablet at least $400, even though they are trying to enter late in a market dominated by Apple. And when they obviously can't do that, they simply give the tablets away and call it quits!
    Now THAT is corporate suicide and yet it stands second to Nokia's recent "FU developers - we take back our promises, BTW we are just another windows phone maker now".

  • Re:Deja vu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:43AM (#37240332)
    Kind of,

    HP has had so many leaders within the past 10 years that they have no idea what assets they have.
    Hell, HP bought a company that was a start up for the cloud idea back in... 2006 I think. They did nothing with it.
    Now they are scrambling to fix it up, and the offering wont be that great if current middle management has its way.
    HP lacks direction because quite simply HP hasnt had anyone worth a damn at the helm, leading to assets that they bought in the past to stagnate.

    HPs problem is literally itself.

    Their management style needs to change, middle management needs to be cleaned out and those that are smarter need to rise up.
    Until then, this company will bleed money, sell off divisions, and end up as small as it was back in 1995.
    If HP sells its printer lines, then you know they are in trouble.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:43AM (#37240336) Homepage

    To add more evidence to this, consider how well Carly Fiorina has been treated in the press. When she was running for public office, all the press was on how she was a successful businesswoman who knew how to make an organization successful, despite all the evidence that the opposite was true.

  • by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:47AM (#37240358) Homepage Journal

    I think it just means that they have no clue how Apple is doing it.

  • Re:Deja vu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:50AM (#37240384) Homepage

    The problems started when Fiorina, maybe even before that with the Compaq merger. They really haven't been able to do anything other than sell large volume servers since. No major projects really have come to fruition. Everything seems to turn into a clusterfuck for HP every time they swap CEOs.

    I remember a number of years ago a documentary on Silicon Valley where an ex-HP engineer said "HP's slogan is 'Invent', we stopped doing that years ago". I think that statement pretty much sums up HP.

  • by scharkalvin ( 72228 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @08:55AM (#37240422) Homepage

    "'as if Alan Mulally left Boeing to join Ford as CEO, and announced six months later that Ford would be making airplanes."

    You realize that Ford DID make airplanes a long time ago. Not only that but they were GOOD at it.

  • by mickwd ( 196449 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:02AM (#37240480)

    I'd love to know whether there's something about the tech industry that makes it susceptible to this level of mismanagement, as so many tech companies seem to have been badly mismanaged over the years.

    Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Andy Grove at Intel (and perhaps Lou Gerstner turning around IBM) stand out amongst the rest as inspired CEOs, even if some of their business practises have left a little to be desired at times. But so many other once-dominant-in-their-field companies have just seemed to crash and burn.

    Maybe I'm wrong and all other industries suffer from the same level of management problems - it's just that the technology industry is the one I'm most familiar with.

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:11AM (#37240562)

    H-P's One-Year Plan (WSJ): Let's say you were given a year to kill Hewlett-Packard. Here's how you do it [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 29, 2011 @09:19AM (#37240628)

    The people you mention were engineers and technologists, not bean counters. I guess that's the difference.

  • by Monkey-Man2000 ( 603495 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:12AM (#37241100)
    HP has a history of horrible CEOs, but you'll notice the key difference is that all three of your examples were co-founders of their respective companies. They actually cared for the company to succeed in the long-term as their legacy and not JUST line their pockets with money, watch the company burn, and skip on to their next CXO job. It seems in the tech-industry, once management is brought in from outside the founders of the company it will inevitably tank (see Sun, etc.) -- IBM being a significant exception. We'll see about Apple now...
  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @10:28AM (#37241270)

    I think here on /. there seems to be an instant association with a CEO as either a psychopath or sociopath. I don't think you can just write off every CEO as being "either or".

    The thing is, when someone is in a position of power and has a great network of people to play golf with, it goes to their head. They care about their image in the media more so than the employees and communities and world they effect.

    There's also the pull the rug over your head effect. The CEOs when they make these moves probably already have them figured out months ahead of time. They just want to implement at the best possible time. Anyone who thinks he didn't have an opinion about what to do with HP, before working there is naive.

    A CEO should do an MTV style 'a day in the life of' where we see them day to day doing their office work. Then for the next 10 episodes, they should do a job in each division of their company preferably in a labour position.

    I want to see the CEO program a computer, assemble ink jet cartridges and pack them in boxes, smell the fumes of assembly lines in China and work 18 hour days on the line. I want to see him deliver a computer to a corporate client. I want to see him do some tech support.

  • Re:IBM did the same (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baikala ( 564096 ) on Monday August 29, 2011 @11:02AM (#37241744) Journal
    About 10 years ago a couple of Alpha servers (Tru64 Unix) and EMA storage in a cluster arrangement was as fast and as stable you can get below the mainframe category (thanks to DEC VAX multiprocessor and shared memory technologies). The natural evolution of the alphas never came out of HP because of their infatuation with Intel Itanium processors, and see how that affair ended up.

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