JCL Blog

One HP is a lofty goal for the new CEO

From one end of the financial spectrum to another... HP had its annual meeting last week where Meg Whitman introduced her plan to combine the PC and Imaging divisions.  HP has been through a great deal in the past 10 years and getting back to stable ground is not going to be quick or easy.  And it does not seem like the press is going to give the new CEO much latitude.  Here are a few of the headlines:

MarketWatch:  H-P’s latest move draws skepticism

WSJ:  CEO Whitman Tells H-P’s Workers ‘Everything Is on Table’ in Overhaul

Reuters:  HP creates PC-printing power, Wall St waits and sees

This is in the context of their ongoing "One HP" initiative, which strives to unify a company that has been operating as fragments for decades.  In recent years growth by acquisition is one of the few things that the many HP CEOs have agreed on.  The HP acquisitions page on Wikipedia tells the whole story.  The revenue and head count growth is dramatic.

Whitman is right to identify the disparate nature of the company as a big problem.  Employees that joined the company over a decade and three CEOs ago still refer to themselves as Compaq people.  Same with employees from 3 Com, 3 Par, Mercury Interactive, EDS, and most recently the employees from the $11 billion acquisition of Autonomy last year.

The list has so many multi billion dollar deals on it that it seems unlikely that one company could be made of the resulting tangled mess. The aim behind combining the PC and Imaging divisions is more likely to convince the employees in the PC division that the persisting story about a spin off is not going to happen and that they should get back to work.

We all remember how big the Compaq deal was when it was announced.  I had forgotten that there were 53 other deals in that decade!  The company grew from 100,000 employees to over 300,000.  Nothing is impossible, but making One HP out of this will be quite a challenge. 

The Microsoft Thread in the News

Here is an interesting post from Computerworld about Linux losing its spark.  I wonder how much of the Linux movement was or is powered by dislike of Microsoft.  If Linux is losing its steam it could be because the anger or angst about Microsoft has declined.  The article I link to here does not propose such a thing as the reason -- instead it lists too many versions of Linux and the decline of the fat client.

Here is an insightful post by Robert Scoble with an interview with Starbuck's CIO, Stephen Gillett, about their new in store digital network -- now live in 6,800 stores and attracting 31 million users per month.  The overwhelming majority of users are on iPhones and Ipads -- so that means Safari browsers and no Flash and no dot net for Starbucks.  

Here is an article in the Wall Street Journal about Steve Job's not so candid appearance on the earnings call (it sounds like he is reading a statement to me) where he blasts away at a bunch of competitors, calls Windows the most open system in history, links Android to Windows and makes an effort to sweep Microsoft and Google away at the same time.

Admittedly, Microsoft is not the center of any of these events or coverage, but there is an interesting thread running through them all.  Collectively they cause me to ask the question:  As Microsoft fades in industry importance -- who is going to fill the void?  I would argue that there is no one ready to fill Microsoft's shoes and that is creating a vacuum that makes everyone uncomfortable.

It will be interesting to see what news comes out of the Microsoft PDC next week

Book Review: Free by Chris Anderson

There are so many great books on my reading list that moving Chris Anderson's "Free" to the top was not something I was all that excited about. In the tech marketing business it is hard to go a week without someone referencing his book however, so to the top it went. I really liked "The Long Tail" and therefore had no justifiable reason to read it begrudgingly. Turns out it is quite good.

I do not ordinarily read with a pen or pencil in my hand. I used to underline things but found I never went back and used the markings so why bother. About 30 pages into Free I found I had 10 pages dog eared and got out my pencil. Just about every page in the book now has a note on it. The book is very well researched, easy to read, and full of great quotes I will want to find easily. The exercise of reading Free also added half a dozen other books to my reading list.

No small part of my reluctance to read the thing was based in the thought that I already knew what he was going to say. Free drives traffic, traffic is value, value converts to dollars some other way...example, example, example, done. While the book does follow this framework, it is much more interesting than that. I had heard many other arguments that the new currencies of attention and reputation were more valuable than dollars, but this book makes the idea pop and then locks it in with solid facts and a convincing cast of supporters.

The author tackles the critics head on and even devotes a chapter to a list of many arguments against the idea of Free and then crisply refutes them one by one. Now there is a limit of course. I am pretty sure I know what would happen should I call up the IRS and suggest that living in this country should be free.

Clearly everything cannot be free, but Chris Anderson does a good job of articulating why some businesses are better off adopting the model.

The two current high profile tests of this idea: Rupert Murdoch against Google, and the New York Times 2011 pay wall decision, happened after the publishing date; and both the NY Times and the WSJ are cited numerous times. These new developments do not take away from the book, and somehow even make the reading seem even more relevant.

Here are some other very good reviews. All of them come in on the too good to be true side. I will post a rebuttal at some later date because I am in the middle of a couple of other contra argument books and I want to give both sides equal time before I conclude anything dramatic.

The New Yorker

NY Times Book Review

Washington Post

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

Fair and Balanced

First let me say, I am a conservative minded person who voted for his first D in the last presidential election because I could not believe the R's picked Sarah Palin -- among other foibles. Even though the fundamentals of my politics are more in line with the Wall Street Journal, I like the style of the New York Times much better and always look forward to the Sunday edition. Years ago when I started reading the New York Times I thought I was doing so to better understand the other team's perspective. Now I find the R's tactics so nauseating that I can barely make it through the WSJ opinion page in one sitting.

OK. On to the point of this posting. There is a front page piece in the NY Times today by David Carr and Tim Arango on Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News. There must have been at least one person in the NY Times news room that wanted to paint Ailes as the man behind the Custer Hill Club. Those of you that are not Nelson DeMille fans should know that the brains and money behind the Custer Hill Club in DeMille's 2006 novel, Wildfire, considered himself such a true patriot that he felt a plan to detonate nukes in two American cities was a small price to pay provided it caused the White House to nuke 128 Arab targets in the post 9/11 version of mutually assured destruction. The charred wreckage in the wake of Fox News is not as measurable with a Geiger counter, but it is measurable.

To the credit of the New York Times however, the article is well done, and carries no discernible bias. In fact the article points out some left leaning tendencies in the Murdoch family -- including possibly Rupert himself -- that most readers would not have known about. Well done New York Times. Maybe Fox News will reciprocate with some fair and balanced reporting of their own.