I used to have this incredible crush on “Carly Fiorina”:http://images.google.com/images?q=carly+fiorina , the CEO of HP. I was so jazzed, there was a hot, erudite woman in charge of a major tech company!
Then she turned out to be a crappy CEO. First she spun off the part of the company that made the calculators and testing equipment that had made HP famous, because growth in those categories was too slow during the dot-com era. Then, when the bust comes, well, HP-minus-testing is bleeding red ink while the testing equipment company, Agilent, is doing the same business as ever.
Then she merges HP-now-we-just-do-printers-and-computers with Compaq, making a real big company that, oops, isn’t real good. All that business and they can’t figure out what it is they’re all about.
Well now Carly thinks she’s got it — she’s decided HP is going to be Sony or Apple”:http://www.fortune.com/fortune/fastforward/0,15704,475309,00.html . Woo. Now there’s a plan! Let’s either take on a well-established consumer electronics giant with a massive head-start in selling products that people actually put in their living rooms, or try to become a company that’s about 10% the size of yours. That’s a stunning strategy, stunning.
The “Fortune article I linked above”:http://www.fortune.com/fortune/fastforward/0,15704,475309,00.html talks a lot about how important it is to “just make things work” and how Apple is the icon for that. It’s important to just make things work, consumers like it (although they don’t like it enough for Apple to have more than a 3% market share). But you know what? That’s what HP used to do. They had calculators that just worked. They had testing equipment that just worked. That was the HP Way.
Then they got away from it. Their computers were mediocre at best, their sales chain was complex and convoluted compared to Dell or Apple, the only good thing they made was printers. Those were bulletproof and just worked. I have a LaserJet 6MP from 1996 that’s still going strong and that I plan to keep for many more years.
Now Carly realizes the value of that printer franchise and wants to make the rest of the company like that. I hope she succeeds. It would be good to have a powerful corporate sex symbol again!