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LA Times Article on HP
Message #1 Posted by Katie Wasserman on 9 Dec 2005, 9:32 a.m.

This was posted on the HPLX list but is just as relevant to this forum:


Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2005

by Michael Hiltzik: Golden State Restoring HP to Its Original Condition

Stumbling corporations trying to regain their footing often turn to their past: They invite a retired chairman to resume the reins, reissue a vintage product or christen a factory after a revered founder.

Something like that is undoubtedly behind Hewlett-Packard Co.'s renovation of the rented Palo Alto garage in which its founders, William R. Hewlett and David Packard, assembled HP's first product, an audio oscillator, in 1939.

HP purchased the legendary property at 367 Addison Ave. in 2000 and launched a project to restore it to its 1939 condition last year. On Tuesday, the company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark its completion. The corporate archivist, Anna Mancini, has been giving interviews on the rehab for several months, and a documentary video is posted on the HP website. Except for a few tours this weekend, however, the property won't be open to the public. (It's on a residential street.)

For HP, this project is loaded with subtext. Although the renovation began under former Chairwoman and Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, it's hard to avoid feeling that Tuesday's ceremony was designed partially to leave behind the Fiorina era, which began with great fanfare in 1999 and ended with her ignominious ouster in February, and to certify the succession as CEO of the rather less exhaustingly glamorous Mark Hurd.

Under Fiorina, HP's very survival came into question, as did its devotion to the core principles codified by Packard in his 1995 memoirs as "the HP Way." In a nutshell, the HP Way exalted teamwork, individual initiative and employee dignity. Its corollaries included rock-ribbed integrity, corporate social responsibility and a reliance on innovative engineering.

The company's diverse product lines started with industrial instrumentation and included such inventions as the first hand-held scientific calculator, the HP-35, which rendered the slide rule obsolete overnight. It entered the computer business with only equivocal success, but it's made a mint in printers and imaging.

That success in printers, however, is a mixed blessing.

The category, which includes consumables like ink and toner, has accounted for less than one-third of HP's sales in recent years but nearly 70% of its operating earnings.

Yet the market's growth is slowing, even as lower-priced competitors flood the supply chain.

Meanwhile, third-party suppliers are hacking away at HP's franchise in ink cartridges.

As for the PC, it's a commodity product in which innovation today comes mainly from software — not one of HP's traditional strengths.

Nevertheless, Fiorina doubled down on the PC bet through her controversial, polarizing and ultimately pointless 2002 acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp.

Fiorina was the antithesis of HP's self-effacing, pragmatic founders. She paid lip service to the HP Way, but employees came to doubt that she truly internalized it.

She expanded the corporate jet fleet and seemed to trail clouds of consultants wherever she went.

Her predecessors believed in precise measurement and rigorous financial accuracy; she delivered wildly optimistic growth forecasts that wrecked HP's reputation on Wall Street.

By the time she was forced to lay off more than 10,000 workers in the teeth of the 2000 high-tech crash, she had lost credibility with the rank and file, too.

Yet the founders had never ruled out harsh prescriptions for corporate survival like layoffs, wage cuts or divestitures.

It's part of HP lore that the founders averted a 10% layoff during a 1970 downturn by asking every employee to work nine days out of 10 for six months; but it's generally overlooked that, as Packard observed in his book, this short-term tactic didn't mean HP was committed to "providing absolute tenure for our people." Indeed, in the early '90s HP stringently downsized, mostly through buyouts and early retirements similar to those imposed at other corporations.

Fiorina's layoffs, while certainly larger and possibly harsher than those that came before, were a response to a dramatically changed marketplace and perhaps weren't as much of a violation of the HP Way as her detractors suggested. (Packard died in 1996 and Hewlett in 2001.)

Hurd, a former CEO of NCR Corp., has now inherited the task of setting the company firmly back on the HP Way. He began his tenure with a record round of 15,300 layoffs, but paired that with bonuses for the survivors to shore up morale. He also sheltered the company's $3.5-billion research and development operation from the cuts.

Financial results are looking up. Profits improved across the board in the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31, with even the long-suffering personal computer segment showing an improved operating margin of 2.8%. (Printing and imaging was still the margin champ, at 13.2%.) Under Hurd, HP shares, which lost roughly half their value under Fiorina, have advanced nearly 50% from the trough.

Watching this company's progress is sure to be a fascinating exercise. HP operates in several businesses where differentiating oneself is difficult and margins are narrowing.

But the company is one of high tech's sterling names and retains a reputation for quality; as I've written before, my house is filled with HP products, including a 12-year-old laser printer that churns out flawless prints for less than a penny per page.

If renovating an ancient garage signals the company's modern revitalization, that can only be a good thing.

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #2 Posted by tomcee on 9 Dec 2005, 11:33 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Katie Wasserman

Here's a very interesting article (with pics) about HP, History and the garage that was recently in the New York Times:

Maybe a future Hand Held conference location?


Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #3 Posted by I, Claudius on 9 Dec 2005, 6:15 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Katie Wasserman

Highly interesting, but it's going to take a bit more than rebuilding the old garage workshop ( the symbolism is good publicity ) to bring HP around. If the current state of HP calculators can used as a general indicator, HP remains in a slow death spiral. Remember, they have to make sure Carly gets every cent of that $43M golden parachute...

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #4 Posted by db (martinez, ca.) on 9 Dec 2005, 9:17 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by I, Claudius

Sadly, i agree but ............ what do you think of the 49g+ ? Really. I'm asking because a fellow surveyor left his with me from yesterday afternoon till this morning and for the hour i played with it, it was moderatly ok. To me, it's not real user friendly as a calculator (!!!) but to a lesser extent, neither was the 48. The screen and keyboard of his are quite good and it is customizeable. God knows it's expandable and it uses a standard interface. If i didn't have everything i need in my 41, i'd buy one with the d'zign survey program and probably be pretty happy.

Don't tell anyone but i'm only 99% happy with my cx.

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #5 Posted by I, Claudius on 10 Dec 2005, 6:41 a.m.,
in response to message #4 by db (martinez, ca.)

The 49+ is cursed with multiple flaws that have not been adequately addressed. I've had several that had defective keys, and I'll probably never buy another one. For some now the other HP newsgroup, Google group comp.sys.hp48, has threads on several types of keypad and memory problems.

As for usage, it takes a lot of time to get used to the 49 interface if you're used to using a basic RPN machine. However, it is quite powerful, once you know its secrets. Professor Gilberto Urroz wrote a two-volume series on using it for engineering work. Those books are now out of print and hard to find, but if you search consistently copies pop up now and again. Professor Renee deGraeve wrote a great command by command description of the computer algebra system, invaluable if you use advanced functions.

As for survey work - I have an uncle who is a surveyor. He told me he has about twenty 48GXs, ranging from beat up to unopened packages. There will be no other machine for him. - Happy Holidays!

Edited: 10 Dec 2005, 6:44 a.m.

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #6 Posted by Namir on 10 Dec 2005, 8:51 a.m.,
in response to message #5 by I, Claudius

Thanks for mentioning Renee deGraeve! I was able to find his website (nice to be able to read French). I also found the website for Xcas.



deGraeve English Link
Message #7 Posted by I, Claudius on 10 Dec 2005, 7:01 p.m.,
in response to message #6 by Namir

It's nice to know other languages, but I should have given the english link:

Happy Holidays!

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #8 Posted by GE on 12 Dec 2005, 6:52 a.m.,
in response to message #6 by Namir

Just for the record, Renée is a "she". Nice doc, BTW.

Re: LA Times Article on HP
Message #9 Posted by unspellable on 9 Dec 2005, 6:16 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Katie Wasserman

The only problem with this is that everything that came out of that garage went with the other half of the company when the split came. Today's HP has next to nothing to do with that garage or anyhting that came out of it. Always maintained the name and the calculators went with the wrong half when they split.

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