HP's Real Crime: Page 2

The spy scandal looks bad, but HP has a much more serious, long-term problem, writes our Enterprise Advisor.
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What does HP have to show for leadership in enterprise software today? OK, so they’re on target to finalize their acquisition of Mercury Interactive, which could definitely bring them more software revenue.

But even this “blockbuster” deal doesn’t look that great, at least to me: HP’s track record with making these kind of acquisitions accretive is dismal, and I don’t see how the “new HP” means that a troubled Mercury has at last found a good home.

Instead, the HP brand is more and more associated with commodity products, like printers and laptops, that the smart money (WWID again) has left behind. And flagship products like OpenView look ripe to have their lunch eaten by open source and start-up companies, who are circling the OpenView customer base like sharks in a chum-filled pool.

It’s funny that the one big fish that got away from Fiorina, whose various speeches defending the Compaq deal are still all over the HP website, was the one that eventually cemented WWID in the industry firmament. That big fish was PriceWaterhouseCoopers, or PWC, which HP tried, and failed, to buy in 2000, and passed on a second time right before IBM acquired its 30,000 high-end consultants in 2002.

That would have been the deal. Top-end consulting, brand-name entrée into executive suites all over the world, some really smart people who could actually help figure out how to win the big deals and eke out big margins out of the hodge-podge of hardware and software the HP still sits on top of four dismal years later. Coulda, woulda, shoulda – didn’t.

So, when you read about all legal and illegal things HP’s chair Patricia Dunn allegedly did in the midst of the merger with Compaq, bear in mind that the real crime was the thing she didn’t do: shepherd HP towards a strategic role in the market worthy of this company’s sterling pedigree.

I’ll leave it to the California Attorney General to rule on whether some violation of the state criminal code has been committed. Because in my mind, the evidence that really matters regarding the activities of the HP board has been floating around for a while. And it doesn’t take hiring a private investigator to find the crime – or the smoking gun.

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