hewlett-packard

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Raise your hand if you think computers are going away? Raise your hand if you think the design form of computers will continue to change? Now quick, name 4 computer brands.

If HP wasn’t among those listed, I’d be surprised.

Where the R&D at?

If I were to count every word of every story about Hewlett Packard over the last 5 years, I’m betting the words research and development doesn’t appear in 1% of the search. Why is that? I’m sure they’re doing some R&D, but they can’t be investing in it in a big way. In the PC and computer businesses, I’ve yet to read about any of their design or form breakthroughs. So what are they doing. They’re playing business Monopoly. Moving pieces around, marketing old stuff, managing loss and going to dinners.

There is a huge, huge pot of money in computing. The design form is changing and is certainly not yet done. And HP is busy lounging around with the world’s second leading computer brand.

Next year at CES, HP should quietly in stealth mode launch something big. With all the other big guys not playing in the CES sandbox it would be a highlight moment. But only if they were to launch something out of their R&D garage that mattered. (Como se Make it Matter.) Come on Ms. Whitman. Peace.

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Today there will be lots of stories written about Leo Apotheker’s plight at Hewlett-Packard. And of the HP board, and potential replacements for Mr. Apotheker. One lens I like to look through when doing strategic planning is the “history” lens.  When viewed over time – a long time – will the company, product or leader have made a historic contribution?  Typically, that means looking at strategy rather than tactics.

In Mr. Apotheker’s case, it is clear to me that his PR handlers were at fault.  His moves to purchase Autonomy, shed the PC and tablet business, and stop investing in WebOS were historic moves — looking well beyond the dashboard.  One might say, and say accurately, that when you put a software person in charge of a mixed media multinational, the road to the future is paved with software.  Mr. Apotheker saw deteriorating PC sales, reduced profitability in services (the cloud is getting not only bigger, but smarter), and device manufacturing (especially sans Steve Jobs) under enormous cost pressures. Think device kudzu.  Rather than stay and fight for integration of solutions hard and soft around his OS — which code-wise may not have been ready for primetime and perhaps at risk from new OS pushes by Microsoft and Apple — he decided to retrench with eye toward the future. Very ballsy.

The cloud is the future. Device complexity will reduce over time and when it does, the cloud, run by software, will become the electricity of business. And that is where Mr. Apotheker was going. Sadly, he had a lapse in judgment and bad guidance and announced it at the wrong time and inelegantly.  Como se billions in lost shareholder value?  Some strategies (read historic) are better left unannounced. Is that not so, Mr. Jobs? Peace.    

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Leo Apotheker CEO of HP in a recent interview came off as a really smart, refreshingly calm captain of the tech industry.  You know the type, not smiling but almost, methodical and thoughtful in his delivery. Confident, not cocky. He knew his numbers, his trends, margins (everyone’s margins, in fact) and had a plan – a future-proof plan.  Use WebOs as the connective tissue for all computing and communication devices, bolstered by an enterprise cloud play.  Lovely.  Sprawling but lovely. Anyone smell an apple?

Those who read these musings know I am all about focus.  That’s the brand planner in me. HP has been anything but focused over the last 10 years. A printer company. The world’s leading PC company. Outsourcing. Big iron. Smart phones. Tabs. And operating systems. But let’s not forget in the post Carly Fiorina era, this company’s financials have been smoking. So the company’s scale has been a positive.

In a stunning announcement yesterday, Mr. Apotheker went on record as saying he wants to jettison tablets, smart phones and the WebOs as businesses, sell the PC business as a standalone unit and buy Autonomy Software for $10B. Normally, I would support this type of move, especially for a floundering company, but this almost feels other-worldly.

The reported for the New York Times Verne G. Kopytoff (also sounds fishy) used words to describe the PC move such as “dump” and “unload.” What PR person was handling this briefing?   

I understand the need for focus and I get the desire to increase margins through upping the software and cloud quotient, which by the way dials down the need for headcount, but this business move feels bi-polar. I wonder how the story is playing in the HP Personal Systems Group today?  Check the meds. Peace.

 

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Hewlett-Packard is launching a new ad campaign today for the TouchPad tablet and it sounds rather messy.  I read about it in The New York Times ad column and hope it’s just poor reporting. The story was written by Elizabeth Olson.

Here’s my strategic take. 

  • HP is late to market with the tablet and needs to get noticed.
  • HP has a new operating system (OS), which will drive all its hardware devices. Called webOS, it will integrate their smartphones, PCs, printers, tablets and soon other devices and appliances.  It’s a cool promise, but s complicated story.
  • Printers are a big franchise and potential differentiator, so HP wants to make them more relevant.
  • The purchase of Palm and the growth of the smartphone market has made the mobile business a critical growth component.
  • HP is not a big brand with Millennials and teens.

That is a lot of stuff to convey.  If you have to say 5 things, you’ve said nothing.

The NY Times story starts out talking about a new commercial with Russell Brand. I’m feeling it.  A little old school, but I’m feeling it. Then it says there are executions with stars from iCarly and Glee. The future holds spots/vids from Lebron James and Jay-Z and Lady Gaga did some work in May but has not re-upped.  Add to that, all the social media contests (100 free TouchPads) and Twitter tchotch and you begin to see how it’s going to be hard to find the idea. Goodby Silverstein is a great  ad shop, but it doesn’t sound as if it hasn’t corralled this herd of goats. 

My head is spinning.  I hope it is just a lot of info, not well organized, by a reporter from another newspaper beat. And I’m no Leo Apotheker. Peace!

 

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HP. Beep-beep.

 

Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of EDS is beginning to make sense to me. The NY Times announced today that HP’s ProCurve corporate networking hardware unit is beginning to eat up some of Cisco System’s marketshare, albeit still with a long way to go (7% HP, 77% Cisco.)   It seems the EDS group may just act as a great sales conduit between its services customers and HP’s ProCurve networking gear. Services people, in order to be good, must really understand business and process and when they do it puts them in great position to recommend product. Accenture has made boat loads of money selling its own software recommended by its services people, why can’t HP can do the same?

Before Mark Hurd took over, HP was resting on laurels and ink cartridges. Its PC business was doing okay, but the company was quite sluggish. Carly Fiorina did not really understand the computer and peripherals business. HP just reported flat quarterly net income, but a revenue increase of 19%. In today’s economy? What does that tell you? It says “beep beep, company moving forward.”


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I’m planning a personal boycott against products with the word Smart in the name. No Smart Car for me. No Smart Phone. No Smart Food (butter? popcorn?) No, no and no. And even though the new Hewlett-Parkard touch screen computer seems pretty cool, it’s part of my boycott. 
 
Naming is not an easy business. There are two ways to go: descriptive and non. When introducing a category-breaker product, I tend to recommend the descriptive approach — words and word assemblages that explain function. If the descriptive approach implies benefits, that’s cool, but for this approach I tend to stay away from benefit. 
 
Today HP introduced the HP TouchSmart IQ500PC, an overgrown iPhone-like desktop computer that lets users stroke and palpate the screen for navigation. But couldn’t they have been equally creative with the name?  I can live with the “Touch” part, but “Smart?”  It’s just lazy. And to add a model number that begins with IQ?
 
Invent? I don’t think so.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I can’t for the life of me figure out Hewlett-Packard. When you think they make a good move, it doesn’t work. When you think they make a bad move, earnings rise. You read about new marketing focus, bad press follows. You read about board tumult and unrest at the top, earnings kick butt.
 
This company is an enigma. Never a Carly Fiorina fan, and I actually did call the downturn under part of her watch, I must admit I may not have given her credit she deserved for long-term planning. Today, 70% of HP’s revenue comes from outside the U.S. – the source of a good part of today’s positive earnings report — which I am going to attribute to the Compaq purchase she engineered. 
 
HP is doing well in printers, brilliantly in computers (who knew?) and, I suspect, well in services. It’s going to take a Harvard B School case study for me to figure out this company, but at the moment I’m digging their staying power and blocking and tackling.
 

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Tactics before strategy makes me crazy. Today’s digital world sometimes creates this environment. I read yesterday about H-P’s new $300 million dollar advertising effort to promote its printer business, and though I read about the effort in national newspapers and an advertising trade weekly, never really understood the idea. Goodby? H-P? What’s the idea?
 
One item that was reported and was apparently newsworthy was this:
 
“For out of home, there will be electronic billboards in Las Vegas and New York’s Time’s Square. In New York, users will be able to build their own (Gwen) Stefani doll and e-mail it to their cell phones. In Las Vegas, they will be able to move around a stream of digital photos that center on Stefani and Burton (the CEO of Burton Snowboards).”
 
Need I say more?
 

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Todd Bradley, the head of Hewlett Packard’s PC business has affected quite a turnaround at a company that had for too long on run on printer powder. Business journalist accounts of the turnaround are manifold; many of which pin the success on a renewed retail strategy. I, for one, believe the turnaround is due to the man in charge. When Mr. Bradley stepped in, he left the comfort of his office. He toured production facilities, talked to production teams, suppliers, channel partners and consumers. He asked questions and then listened for the answers. When patterns of information started to form, the big picture issues emerged and he began to made decisions. Where are we weak? Where are we strong? What can I fix near-term? Long-term?  What do I want to be known for tomorrow? What do people want today?
 
Here’s a man who knew what questions to ask and to whom he should address them. And he listened. In deference to multivariate statistical analysis, sometimes a good ear is all it takes to turn around a business.
 

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