Archive for September, 2011

HP Corporate Suicide?

September 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The media is reporting that Meg Whitman will become the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard. My first reaction is that this is a terrible choice. HP has a great tradition of technical competence in its core businesses, but a string of bad management decisions has resulted in the company losing leadership in most of its markets and floundering as it thrashes around with no clear direction.

HP started making technical instruments (in 1939!) and leveraged that expertise in the computerized calculator market in the 70’s. Later it became the market leader in quality laser printers for business and invented the ink jet printer for the home printer market.

A string of bad management decisions resulted in HP spinning off its technical instrument division and abandoning its longstanding loyal customers. Then its leadership eroded in the laser printer market with poor product service and support. Failing to recall and fix defective products (like the LaserJet 1100) and failing to supply decent printer software damaged its reputation in this core market as competitors like Canon, Sharp, Lexmark and Brother cut into its market share. The biggest fiasco was the divisive Carly Fiorina forcing the disastrous acquisition of Compaq Computer down the throats of the Board of Directors. This “merger” made no sense at all when desktop and notebook computers were evolving into low margin commodities. It was a bad move in a market where there there was excess capacity and slim margins. The whole deal turned out poorly and resulting in Fiorina getting the boot.

Fiorina’s successor Mark Hurd improved profitability by drastic cost-cutting but the company lacked innovation and leadership in its core businesses (printers and computers). Hurd had to resign due to sexual harassment and expense account problems. His successor Leo Apotheker had the great idea of simply dumping the computer division that Fiorina had bet the company on 6 years ago. His great insight was to enter the cloud computing and cell phone markets, and follow Apple in the tablet computer market. Wow, that’s innovative–copy what everyone else is doing.

So what does HP need after countless reorganizations and a string of non-technical CEO who have no concept of innovation in the high tech world? What they need is someone who really understands Silicon Valley high tech and can build a team capable of coming up with some innovations in the core markets (instead of copying others). But who do they hire? Meg Whitman, who started her career selling soap for Procter and Gamble and has worked for such high tech innovators like Hasbro and Stride-Rite. She expanded eBay but turned it into an uncontrolled marketplace full of fraud and ridiculously high fees. She couldn’t buy a political office in spite of spending $45 per voter in her run for governor of California. No technical background at all and lacking any feel for the tradition of an engineering company.

As an interesting coincidence, I am planning the curriculum for my class starting next week on the subject of how technological change may impact business. I selected HP as a case study of a company that is in desperate need of change and serious intervention due management’s failure to understand the rapidly changing world of technology products. Hmmm.

Comments from experts range from “they could have done better” to “an unmitigated disaster.” These are comments from professors in business schools with knowledge of the computer industry. Hey, wait a minute. I’m a professor in a business college with knowledge of the computer industry. The NY Times should have quoted me.


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Mystery Solved

September 19th, 2011 Comments off

I spent hours looking for the blog database on the server in order to examine it and download a backup. I can’t access it directly because I don’t have permission on the hosting company server, but I found a way to export the data. When I examined the data I found it was not corrupted but was missing the posts from Aug 11 to September 16.

Today I received an e-mail from my hosting company Network Solutions:

“This email is to inform you that we detected a storage hardware problem, involving a single MYSQL server, Saturday, September 17, 2011. We took immediate action to restore from backups, and while all of the data should be restored, some customers may still have missing data.”

“You did not previously have Database Backup enabled, therefore, we have restored your website to the last system backup on August 10, 2011.”

Well, that sucks. By default they do not back up their customers’ data to protect against data loss caused by their hardware failure. They should have redundant storage (RAID 0) to prevent this sort of problem from occurring at all. I have now turned on the backup feature but I don’t know why this feature is buried above 6 layers deep in the account control panel. And the missing posts are lost forever (which is not a big deal but disappointing). Welcome to Cloud Computing!

At least the mystery is solved and I am protected from a recurrence.

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September 18th, 2011 Comments off

I’m still trying to figure out why about 10 posts disappeared yesterday.

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What Happened?

September 17th, 2011 Comments off

I just posted a new post and then all my previous posts for about the last 30 days disappeared. I have no idea what happened.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

September 17th, 2011 Comments off

Since I teach Human Resources I am naturally interested in the topic of jobs in the U.S. and world-wide. A couple of items of note:

On the plus side, GM and the UAW have agreed to a tentative contract that continues to provide benefits for the workers and includes re-opening the Spring Hill, Tennessee plant (that was originally part of Saturn). It’s nice to see some stability beginning to return to the U.S. auto industry.

But on the minus side, the recession is still severe in the U.S. and world-wide. The poverty rate for adults is now as high at is was in 1964 when LBJ launched the “War on Poverty.” It is truly shocking that after over 55 years we have essentially gone nowhere. And world-wide, about 3 billion adults willing to work are competing for 1.2 billion jobs. (Source: )

Categories: General Observations Tags: