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HP Businesses

HP Is Now Two Companies. How Did It Get Here? (cio.com) 198

New submitter joshroberts3388 writes: If Hollywood wanted a script about the inexorable decline of a corporate icon, it might look to Hewlett-Packard for inspiration. Once one of Silicon Valley's most respected companies, HP officially split itself in two on Sunday, betting that the smaller parts will be nimbler and more able to reverse four years of declining sales. HP fell victim to huge shifts in the computer industry that also forced Dell to go private and have knocked IBM on its heels. Pressure from investors compelled it to act. But there are dramatic twists in HP's story, including scandals, a revolving door for CEOs and one of the most ill-fated mergers in tech history, that make HP more than a victim of changing times.
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HP Is Now Two Companies. How Did It Get Here?

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  • Failing upwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01, 2015 @05:40PM (#50843771)

    And after buggering up HP so bad as to cause this split, that CEO is now running for president.

    • by steak ( 145650 )

      fiorina hasn't been ceo of hp for 10 years

      • Re:Failing upwards (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @07:11PM (#50844091) Journal

        fiorina hasn't been ceo of hp for 10 years

        And notably, during that time zero other companies offered her the CEO position.

        It's not impossible for a single disastrous CEO to bring a company down for a decade.

        • Re:Failing upwards (Score:5, Insightful)

          by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @07:39PM (#50844177) Homepage Journal
          She did leave HP a mess. She was the one to cause a lot of their top engineering talent to walk, she tried to shift HP to a products company with the Compaq acquisition which was a huge boondoggle in the end, and hp's stock price fell 55% under her watch. You don't get fired for doing a good job.
          • Re:Failing upwards (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @08:45PM (#50844355)

            She also helped destroy the high quality instruments division before spinning it off as Agilent. That was the group whose technology quality helped keep HP's quality high, because the robust designs and high quality for HP instruments were a touchstone for quality in the the company's other departments. Since her advent, I've repeatedly shown partners and clients that they can buy more hardware, of better overall quality, for less money, than by insisting on HP. It does require some research, but when you're buying 100 servers you _do not care_ how many firewire ports it has, the graphical chipset, or how robust the decorative faceplate is. You care about CPU's, amount and quality of memory, and being able to afford dual power supplies _and_ dual UPS's and switches to plug them into.

            • by msauve ( 701917 )
              Yep. The current HP is a name only. The real HP legacy is Keysight Technologies (via Agilent). What's now called HP is really Compaq/DEC.
            • by khallow ( 566160 )

              She also helped destroy the high quality instruments division before spinning it off as Agilent.

              Most of that was done before she came to power. She merely oversaw the final phase of the spin off of Agilent and had little to do with the spin off. The huge decline in the combined PC/server market share of HP/Compaq is her baby though.

            • Maybe, but HP really should never have gotten into a commodity PC business. It's not really a high tech sort of thing except for some small parts here and there. No need for a design team, no need for innovation, with clones all you have to do is copy and put on some makeup.

              • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
                They tried innovation in laptops, and it generally didn't work out well. They had one of the best handhelds at one point, but dropped it while it was still popular and in demand, rather than continuing development on it. The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] is still found in some industrial settings. Cheap DOS computer, tiny and takes almost no power. If they had tried, they could have continued the miniaturization of DOS. They also abandoned the highly popular HP 48 calculator series, and mainly, but
          • by TWX ( 665546 )

            She did leave HP a mess. She was the one to cause a lot of their top engineering talent to walk, she tried to shift HP to a products company with the Compaq acquisition which was a huge boondoggle in the end, and hp's stock price fell 55% under her watch. You don't get fired for doing a good job.

            I think that a big part of the problem was not that HP got Compaq's customers and market share, but that it got Compaq's quality and the hamstrung business practices that made it available for takeover in the first place.

            I can see a real reason for a professional-services and professional-hardware company to purchase a commodity-hardware company; commodity hardware can sell like crazy and for a long time Compaq did a half-decent job using their consumer-grade products as test-platforms before integrating

      • It appears to me sometimes, that a lot of CEOs spend their entire tenure as CEO . . . as NOT being the CEO. Instead, they spend all of their time doing interviews on CNBC and conference calls with with Wall Street analysts.

        • It appears to me sometimes, that a lot of CEOs spend their entire tenure as CEO . . . as NOT being the CEO. Instead, they spend all of their time doing interviews on CNBC and conference calls with with Wall Street analysts.

          That's what CEOs are supposed to do. If they are publicly traded, they need to manage Wall Street since those funds are generally the majority stakeholders in the company. Also, you do interviews to get your corporate message out there, and get a little free publicity.

    • And after buggering up HP so bad as to cause this split, that CEO is now running for president.

      Who knows, maybe she'll do the same for the US when she's El Presidenta after overseeing a disastrous loss of market share to China PLC. You could make the split roughly north/south, say along the Mason-Dixon line.

    • Fiorina will do to America what she did to HP.

      She will buy Canada at inflated price and lay off half of America.

      • Canada's not exactly a good Compaq analog. To carry the analogy properly, you'd have to posit that Fiorina would merge the US with Greece, Syria, or Ukraine. And then fire half of the US and base the entire country's remaining economy on printer ink made in Mexico.

    • And after buggering up HP so bad as to cause this split, that CEO is now running for president.

      My problem with HP consumer stuff, was the abismal quality. A desktop failure was expected about 6 months to one year after the warantee expired. And also, replacement part (power supply or mother board), were non-standard, meaning that one had to visit HP for a replacement. Even their wireless mouse failed within a year.

      If a company skimps on quality, the customer flees that brand and also recommends other brands. I have a pile of failed HP desktops.

  • Palm?
    3Com?
    Compaq?
    Ericsson?
    Apollo Computer?
    Snapfish?
    Mercury Interactive?
    EDS?

    I'm guessing they won't call it Autonomy.

    maybe they won't recycle a merger name, and go with "Agilent II"?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @05:48PM (#50843807)

    That's not the important question. The interesting question is, "Where is it going . . . ?" I don't think HP's senior management can answer that question.

    • The interesting question is, "Where is it going . . . ?"

      Unless they turn things around, they're going down the shitter. It's really a shame too. There was a time when I wouldn't hesitate to purchase their products. For a very long time, I wouldn't think of purchasing a printer from another company. But that time is long past.

      • For a very long time, I wouldn't think of purchasing a printer from another company. But that time is long past.

        Indeed. My HP 4M+ (circa 1994) is still giving my IBM Model M (circa 1984) and my Tektronix 465B (circa 1980) a run for their money...unfortunately that ship has long since sailed.

        • HP 4M+ is a great printer. Unfortunately isn't very manageable with its JAVA interface. The fact that they need to be firewalled should say enough.

          You might want to update your windows 98 To something more modern while you're at it. ;)

          • You might want to update your windows 98 To something more modern while you're at it. ;)

            Windows 98? DOS 1.x FTW. Fortunately you can still get parallel and PS/2 ports on modern PC's. I don't know for how much longer though.

            (I still have one of those Compaq 'Portables' I pull out every so often just for grins)

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Their corporate x86 server support was really good in the 1990s.

        I can remember a problematic Netserver LX Pro which had some strange problem that we knew ultimately had to be hardware based because we had 5 of them running identical Netware installs, and only one of them had this problem.

        We had 4 hour support and had a field engineer on site with a trolley full of spare parts on a Sunday night who was able to diagnose and replace the parts pretty quickly.

        Getting that kind of support now out of anyone else w

    • "Where is it going . . . ?" I don't think HP's senior management can answer that question.

      Sadly, I have mostly concluded that an alarming amount of large corporations have senior management who mostly don't have a clue.

      Especially in companies who have grown through acquisition, there seems to be a lot of gaps between what the CEO thinks exists, and what actually exists. They just end up mismanaging a bunch of units which at one point were pretty good, but have been pretty much wrecked by lousy management.

      I

      • I have mostly concluded that an alarming amount of large corporations have senior management who mostly don't have a clue.

        They aren't supposed to have a clue about actually running a business. They are supposed to have a clue about having a personality and able to raise funds and schmooze other CEO types.

  • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @05:50PM (#50843815)
    By all accounts things only started to go south when Bill and Dave left and were replaced by a series of bean counters with no sense for what gives a tech company positive buzz and positive sales growth. Carly being example 1. Meg being example 2.
    • Growth without focus.

      HP allowed Woz to sell the Apple computer. Some think that HP should be kicking themselves, they were in the opportunity to lead the home PC revolution. However the consumer market wasn't HP focus. If they were to go with the personal computer chances are they would have failed at it, because that wasn't their market. They wouldn't have been able to sell small quantities like they did with the Apple I, as well offer the right amount of personal marking touch that only Jobs can do.

  • You mean 3 companies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    HP sold off the original HP as Agilent.

  • It got here because Meg wanted to spin EDS back off.

    Or course, this brilliant move is from the idiots who kept calling the original HP garage a "two car garage" every couple of days, while featuring a picture of that garage, which was clearly only big enough for one car.

    • If they let enough people go from HP and outsource everything else to India because of the merger, sooner or later HP head offices will be able to fit in that two-door garage again.

  • Agilent was the core of HP's technology prowess back in the day. The part of HP that became Agilent was the part of HP that was the original and great HP.

    .
    Once Agilent was split off, HP started its downward spiral.

    • Keysight Technologies?
    • This, exactly. Silly Valley and the business press blundered along with the charade that the sad dregs left after Agilent split off were in any way related to the real HP.

      Yes Carly made things even worse (and of course she would be disastrous as POTUS) but all she had left to work with was bullshit and hubris.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      Agilent splt from hp in 99 and was its own company nothing to do with HP, Agilent then split off all its electronic test equipment to form keysight, yet another separate company, while Agilent pretty much does nothing as what they do provide is a decade out of date and a decade ahead on price

  • Seeing as they spun off the test instrument business (The part of HP many people really liked) as Agilent in 99

    Maybe the should sell/spinoff the calculator division to Agilent and re-name it HP-Classic.

  • Remember that HP (The real HP that made electronic test equipment) was spun off into Agilent which was recently spun off again into Keysight Technoogies.

    (2009)
    HP -> HP (Computers, Printers etc)
    -> Agilent (Life Sciences, Electronic Test)

    (2014)
    Agilent -> Agilent (Life Sciences etc)
    -> Keysight Technologies (Electronic Test)

    So when you talk to engineers about HP, we think Agilent and now Keysight as having the original DNA of HP

  • HP is now H ... and ... P ??
  • Why the long face?

  • HP, the upcoming new one, Agilent, and Keysight.
  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @08:23PM (#50844289) Journal

    The good parts of HP have been gone for a long time.

    The Corvalis Group was pretty much just dismantled.

    The Instruments group became Agilent.

    The part that is left is a bunch of ink grifters in the printing division and a bunch of shitty clone sellers in the computer division.

    It's not at all the same company that it was. And it has nothing to do with Carly, she only became CEO years after the decline. The Cold War killed HP. They couldn't continue to sell instruments and equipment to the Military at sky-high prices, the business they were doing in the 60's became comodified. The back labs at HP filled up with boomers who though they could ride the gravy train to retirement but it wasn't going to happen.

    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @08:57PM (#50844375)

      > They couldn't continue to sell instruments and equipment to the Military at sky-high prices, the business they were doing in the 60's became comodified

      They also sold to coporate customers, who discovered that instead of paying thousands for an oscilloscope, they could pay hundreds for a plug-in digital board with far less precision and frequency range, but they _did not care_. HP disdained to enter the low-end instrument market, and couldn't maintain the formerly very high revenue stream as modern A/D converters improved. They could have continued in a much more modest way: few modern technicians understand that _the oscilloscope probe _matters_ and needs to be taken into account very differently at different fruquency ranges in your measurements, and the old HP instruments took their tuning for accuracy _seriously_ to preserve precision. Now? Good luck finding that switching power supply harmonic creeping its way into your motherboard and causing errors because some cheap vendor discarded the small, extra ceramic capacitors to save price and board space on their latest design.

      • I'll just fire up my Tek 7603 'scope with the differential comparator plugin to find that harmonic. I don't have a matched set of probes so won't get 100 dB of common mode rejection, but it'll do the job.

        I never really liked the old HP analog scopes. I thought Tek made a far batter line.

        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          As much as I like the 7A13 and 7603, a 7L5 or 7L14 with a 7613 and home made sniffer probe would probably be a better choice.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @09:54PM (#50844529) Journal

    HP Inc. - printer, consumer electronics and low end servers. Basically unraveling the Compaq deal.
    HP Ent - disk arrays, high end servers, Open VMS (and therefore a lineage to DEC), Open Stack, Saas, and services. Services was once EDS and management is slowly and quietly putting a knife to it, thereby unraveling another deal made by Carly and the clowns.
    Agilent - split into Avago and Keysight.

    As far as services goes, other companies are having problems with a dying service part of the business. Probably due to the cloud convincing people they do not need IT services. That includes Oracle and IBM.

    So when you discuss HP please specify.

  • Even worst example of decline of a corporate icon: Digital. Once suppier of leading technologies such as the Alpha CPU, it was bought by a PC maker, Compaq. And Compaq merged with HP. Oh, wait...
  • They spun off Agilent [cnet.com] in 2002.
  • Umm, not exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday November 01, 2015 @11:31PM (#50844901)

    "HP fell victim to huge shifts in the computer industry...."

    No, not really.

    What they fell victim to was Carly Fiorina, who skillfully drove a once-vibrant company into the ground and then walked away with millions, laughing at the suckers who got laid off as a result of her ham-handed management.

    It's no secret what ruined HP, and the thing that ruined HP is now running for president of the country. Fortunately she has ZERO chance of ever sitting in the White House, but it's an insult to everyone that this greedy, viscous bitch would dare to present herself as a viable candidate for the most powerful office in the land.

    • insult to everyone that this greedy, viscous bitch would dare to present herself as a viable candidate for the most powerful office in the land.

      You talking about Carly or Hillary? Seriously I can't tell the difference.

      • You talking about Carly or Hillary? Seriously I can't tell the difference.

        In a practical sense, there is virtually no difference. There just wear different brands, but underneath they're nearly identical in ideology and sense of purpose. Hillary is a Republican in virtually every way, indistinguishable except for which side of the aisle she sits on.

  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @12:51AM (#50845111)
    HP went to hell in a basket because the board of directors keeps hiring McKinsey style business idiots to run the company. As a result, they by or merge with company after company and with the exception of their 20 year forey into the memristor which even today has yet to happen, they have absolutely no concept of innovation or market leadership. They for lack of a better term are a huge beige box vendor which tries to beige box everything they touch.

    I think the biggest and most impressive effort they've made in a really long time to be part of something bigger was the Itanium processor project with Intel. But sadly, whether it was them, Intel or both, Itanium failed because developers couldn't afford to get one.

    If you look closely at the list of CEOs that HP has had over the past 15 years, every one of them is someone that loves the word "synergize" and was hired by the board of directors to increase the value of their shares with absolutely no respect for the company itself. They probably all hang out on yachts filled with hookers talking about how great HP is without having the first clue as to what HP actually makes.
  • HP hasn't had interesting product in living memory. The closest they came was buying WebOS and making a tablet, but they couldn't even follow through on that one. I'm not sure there was a future in that anyway, but at least if they'd followed through it would be something to move forward with.

    • Re:No product (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @10:11AM (#50846369) Homepage

      HP hasn't had interesting product in living memory. The closest they came was buying WebOS and making a tablet, but they couldn't even follow through on that one. I'm not sure there was a future in that anyway, but at least if they'd followed through it would be something to move forward with.

      True on the consumer side, but on the enterprise/datacenter side they were producing some pretty interesting products in the last few years that were horribly marketed and/or sold. My personal favourite was the HP Moonshot which was a hyper-converged blade architecture and potentially one of the most interesting things in large-scale computing in years. However, it was hobbled by terrible marketing, and requiring you to have the solution architected (at your cost, mind) by HP's techs rather than allowing you to just buy the chassis and blades. I went through that process and it was such a pain in the ass that we ended up buying Cisco UCS (which was its own set of pains in the ass I won't get into).

      I think they did ease up that requirement for architecture, but I know myself and a lot of other people were really put off by the sales technique; like they were saying we were too dumb to know our own workload requirements and therefore they wanted to charge us for their service folks times to come architect it for us. They were acting like they had no competitor... and in that sort of density they sort of didn't when it was first unveiled. But tech moves quickly, and at the time it was felt that the kind of density Moonshot was offering was a nice to have and not a necessity, so most savvy IT managers and admins went with UCS or Dell's M1000e, and later started looking at platforms like Nutanix and Simplivity for the same workloads.

  • HP = Has Problem HP = Hardly Perfect HP = Horrendous Products HP = Horse Puckey
  • "HP Is Now Two Companies. How Did It Get Here?"

    Two words: Carly Fiorina.

    I know people throw around the term psychopath in connection with CEO character a lot but in this case, she absolutely ticks off the boxes, including :

    PATHOLOGICAL LYING

    Carly Fiorina Makes a Lot of Stuff Up About Everything

    http://www.motherjones.com/pol... [motherjones.com]

    CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS

    "..the thing that comes through clearest is this almost, if we werenâ(TM)t on TV, Iâ(TM)d say almost psychopathic denial of reality. As you saw, e

  • The acquisition might have been a problem financially, but it brought a lot of good people in to HP, including many DEC veterans from Compaq's takeover of them. In the past I've seen HP staffers confuse bad corporate policy with bad people or bad technology.

    HP's Server business was a joke before they acquired the Proliant line, and their Storage business model was to resell Hitachi. If HP is an Enterprise player at all today, it;s thanks to Compaq (and, by extension, DEC).

  • Wanted to be the largest PC hardware company just as the mobile wave was hitting. IBM sould their PC hardware to Lenevo in time.

    Wanted to be a services company, buying up DEC and EDS. I havent heard how that half is faring. They get the brunt of layoffs.
  • I think you mean four companies.

    Hewlett-Packard -- whatever they are spinning off into -- maybe computers and printers/ink
    Agilent Technology (life science)
    Keysight (electronics test equipment)

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