After HP booted Carly, customers
pondered a reboot of the 3000s future at HP
Few dismissals in the world of
business were as public as the ouster of HP CEO Carly Fiorina on Feb.
9, just one week before the company would report its first 2005
quarterly numbers and days before HPs 2005 Americas sales
meeting. Fiorinas forced resignation earned mention on all
major TV news broadcasts the day it was announced; HP 3000 customers
weighed in with emotional comments on how Fiorinas departure
might change things. Or might not, according to a majority of
customers filling the Internet with messages.
The most powerful woman in
business for the last five years in one magazine survey, Fiorina
departed HP to the relief of many employees. Among analysts, her
ouster was only decried by advocates of women as corporate leaders.
The HP 3000 community could identify few supporters of the woman
whose mission of HP business change included the demise of HPs
3000 business. HP employees in the enterprise computer group said
they felt shareholders and customers always came in front of
employees for Fiorina, an outsider who never could assume a role that
made her one with the companys rank and file. Many quoted the
line from the Wizard of Oz: Ding, dong, the witch is
HP held a press conference with
stock analysts to explain its reasons for Fiorinas resignation,
a move which the HP board of directors demanded. But statements from
the board showed HPs leaders have not committed to a different
strategy. The companys CFO Bob Wayman is now acting as CEO, in
addition to his financial leadership duties, while HP searches for a
replacement. Patricia Dunn, an HP director on the board since 1998,
assumes the title of non-executive chairman for the corporation.
That boards view of Fiorina
changed quickly during 2004. At the start of the year the board paid
the CEO a $1.5 million performance bonus. By the end of the 2004 a
special group of directors was demanding that Fiorina share her
executive responsibilities. On her exit, the CEO took a $21.1 million
golden parachute, 50 percent more than former Compaq CEO Michael
Cappelas grabbed when he left HP after the HP-Compaq merger. The
board has voted not to retain the services of the same search firm
that delivered Fiorina for the boards approval more than five
HP 3000 fortunes fell sharply in
that Fiorina era, but hopes for the products rebound were
rising when she first took office in July, 1999. A sales executive
with no technical credentials, Fiorina focused on a corporate image
makeover for stodgy HP, pushing its history of invention and then
imaging products in high-profile ads. The resulting lurch toward
consumer markets and commodity products left the 3000 standing to the
side of HPs new corporate path. Although the ax on Fiorina fell
far from the 3000s line of management at HP, some customers saw
the ouster as another way to hope for a revival for the server.
After all, Coca-Cola brought
back the original Classic Coke, said system manager Connie
Sellito of the US purebred registry Cat Fanciers Association. Even
migrating customers took a moment to consider a second HP act for the
3000 after the ouster.
The change did
make me wonder if the HP 3000 decision might be revisited, said
Dave Seale, IT Director at Virginia International Terminals,
HPs earliest case study on migration practices. VIT is ready to
turn over its migration project to Speedware in March after business
growth slowed VITs projected timetable to leave the platform.
It would be very interesting to me if HP decides to reconsider
their decision, Seale said. Logically, I never could
But two-thirds of customers
contacted after the ouster said their companies were already moving
on, or they held little hope of a change in HPs 3000 plans.
Wirt Atmar, founder of application provider AICS Research and a 3000
advocate of many years, said HP cant change its reputation
about the server with a shift in CEO.
untrustworthiness with the platform, HP can never again seriously
attempt to sell it to anyone, he said. But HP could do
wonders to improve both its image and its standing among its former
users by actively and aggressively cooperating with the OpenMPE
project. After the news of Fiorinas departure, Ray Meyers
of Vera Water & Power looked back on the timing of his migration
project with regret. If this only could have happened six
months ago! he said. I would have put a hold on the
project until we found out what the new CEOs intentions
But even among homesteading
companies such as Cannex Financial Services in Toronto, the change at
the top didnt change the outlook for much of the 3000 market.
Too much money has been spent by the customer base either
migrating or planning to migrate, said Cannex systems VP Steven
Waters. A reversal would not go over too well in those
Even if Fiorinas failure to
grow HP business wont bring the 3000 back into HPs
product line, some customers believe her ouster can do some good for
the MPE community. These customers think a change in HP management
could present OpenMPEs volunteer advocates with an opportunity
they might not have had before.
Is there better impetus for
turning MPE over? asked OpenMPE board member Donna Garverick.
I strongly believe so. I think were going to see a major
attitude change. And with it will finally come the permission to
release MPEs source code.
Outside those volunteers who
are still working for a release of the MPE source, other customers
could see OpenMPE potential. The closest thing we can hope for
now is the success of the OpenMPE project, said Stevin Almes of
Practice Management, and HP making some progress on releasing
the code to them.
Steve Suraci, president of
3000 third-party support provider Pivital Solutions, said the idea of
Fiorinas firing impacting the 3000s term at HP was a
silly notion. If anything, this should expedite the endgame.
Why would anyone who wants to keep their job at HP stick their neck
on the line for the HP 3000? Its way too late for them to turn
back, and everyone inside and outside HP should know that. Anyone who
thinks otherwise better not be risking their own future on
Some customers pointed out that
the 3000s fate was set long before Fiorina assumed her job. But
many said they were ready to invest more faith in the companys
remaining enterprise solutions after the CEOs departure. The
Adaptive Enterprise, a fuzzy strategy often derided in the trade
press, emerged at the center of enterprise solutions after HP pulled
its 3000s off price lists.
Those solutions looked unlikely to
change in the days after the dismissal, an ouster that HP performed
because of Fiorinas inability to execute not over her
direction. She had a strategic vision and put in place a plan
that has given HP the capabilities to compete and win,
HPs press release assured investors. A successor will be picked
by HPs board, which still includes HP printer kingpin Dick
Hackborn, who promoted Fiorina in 1999 as a outsider to shake up the
HP Way. Remarks from other board members Dunn and Wayman indicated
the prospects are remote for a change from the strategy of the last
five years. The next CEO may have to march to a tune which Carly
composed and the HP board sang in near unison
The Board believes this is
the right strategy, Wayman said of HPs decision to buy
Compaq, delve into consumer markets and step up to battle Dell and
IBM in servers. While they wont preclude any open
discussion on a new CEOs view of what the future strategy
should be, we are looking for a CEO who also embraces that strategy
in all probability.