Whiter shade of HP


“The crowd call out for more…”

Procol Harum’s one-hit wonder, with his indelible organ solo, still mystified many on YouTube.

Legacy companies in a mature industry such as HP, have moved too far away from their roots,

hence, at great risk of being irrelevant or turning into wax (Icarus paradox).

In HP’s early days, Bill and Dave pulled together their resources, built their own road around the farm,

and of course, started to fill small orders for test instruments or whatever people wanted to trust them with.

Wall Street is still using HP calculator, a testimony to an American enduring icon.

I am a fan.

But so were many Pan Am loyal customers. They are the ones who, as of last night, watched Pan Am

the TV series. Vintage and nostalgic. A remembrance of time passed, American way.

The Economist’s winding topic “Is America a Third World Country” still sees people weighing in almost every day.

What used to work might not work again.

Not at today’s scale and speed.

With a bunch of acquisitions, most notably Compaq, HP exerted its reach beyond its core competencies and watered down its culture.

No more the old self-reliance, can-do attitude and (autonomy) tight-knit group (the original founders took yearly vacation together).

If only HP could recapture some of its former glory e.g. divided into start-up units w/micro-funding and yes, making engineering hip again (back to the garage).

It cannot put old wine in new wine skin, the way A Whiter Shade of Pale being played by a symphony orchestra.  Somehow, it gotta to be heard in its original unadulterated electric organ.

Ms Whitman will have to double up as a CCO, i.e. orchestrate  organic growth, and plant the seeds of self-disrupt (all the while, still getting paid $1). She did it with multiple sports. She might be able to pull this off again, after E-bay magic.

Nowadays, we feel disheartened with titles like “That Used to Be Us” .

It’s good that the incoming CEO had a taste of defeat, and spent some time at Valley’s most famous Venture group.

She is now tasked with rekindling the fire of rugged individualism, who once conquered the Wild Wild West, and

spreading it into the World Wide Web.

There will be many misses and a few hits. Most of all, she might have to live with one-hit wonder and try to milk it . It’s a long-tail economy which favors low-cost softwares, leaving hardware heavy weights like HP with grandfathered products.

With bold statements like “the importance for Silicon Valley, for the nation and the world”, our HP new chief has just put on more chips on her shoulders.

Just make sure the company keep its ink division. You don’t want a whiter shade of print coming out of my computer at home.

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