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May 2004

An eye on skies defines outlook for the next year

NewsWire Editorial

We had trained for months, but there was no preparing for what gathered outside our windows. More than 300 Hill Country Ride for AIDS cyclists looked at the gathering storm clouds on the night before this year’s event. I was one of them, waiting to see what the weather would unleash upon us. We were packing up our camping gear, anticipating a very soggy overnight stay on the two-day, 120-mile bicycle ride across some of the tougher climbs in the Texas Hill Country.

The hardest part of the ride didn’t turn out to be the thigh-busting set of hills on County Road 304. Not for me, anyway. The toughest part was the waiting, watching the skies and the weather radar and the TV forecasts. We knew we had somewhere to go, but didn’t know what we’d have to overcome. The weather was as unpredictable as HP must seem to HP 3000 owners of today. You know there’s going to be a storm of change that will wash out much of the last quarter-century of HP’s path for a 3000 customer. But a lack of information makes it tough to plan for anything but scrapping your systems by December, 2006.

This year our ride got caught by a cold front, an unexpected visitor to Texas in late April. A slow-moving one, this weather front was, promising flood-level rains. But where would it arrive, and when? The Hill Country Ride traipses through three counties of Central Texas, a lot of ground for a storm to linger above. I hoped for the best, because after 600 miles of training, I didn’t want to let go of the joy of meeting 120 miles of challenge, see it slip away under a thundercloud.

Some of you have trained yourself for your own ride, a path up and down the hills of 3000 Transition. You might have referred to your years of experience with users, or hard-won lessons about testing applications, or how and when to push an app into production. I think of this like our mini-clinics about climbing hills, what to wear while riding the bike through bad weather, or how to pedal across exit ramps. All good knowledge, but for naught. We needed to know where the lightning bolts were going to appear.

HP 3000 customers need to know the vendor’s intentions beyond 2006 about the operating environment that drives their applications. So many customers will still be using HP 3000s in 2007 that it’s easy to see homesteading will be in play at a majority of sites. HP will wait, however, apparently for another year or more, to decide about MPE’s future.

On the night before our ride was to start, I felt as frustrated as some of you have been with HP’s desire to decide MPE’s post-2006 fate. It felt unfair that I should have to pack for our overnight camping without even knowing if we’d ride off the next day, in the rain. I had one advantage; I knew that nobody can control the weather. As 3000 customers, you can’t rely on that knowledge as it relates to HP’s ability to decide. Some of you believe HP by now can control the fate of one of its products, one that HP stepped away from more than two years ago. You draw on logic, like I watched weather prediction models. You see 2007 and beyond as years when 3000 revenue will stop mattering to HP.

That logic means as little as knowing the typical weather patterns for the Hill Country in April. For the last four years, our ride to benefit AIDS charities enjoyed rain-free weekends. This year, the Gulf Stream is camping out in a different latitude, and we’ve been drizzled on plenty while we trained. Several training rides got rained out or fogged in. I climbed to the top of the Bee Caves hill on one training day in a wind-swept drizzle. It was bad enough to have to stand on my pedals in a low gear, but doing it with rain spots fogging over my glasses made a hard morning worse.

In the same way, customers’ logic about what HP ought to do really won’t change things at the vendor. People inside HP confirm that so much has changed there, right down to less vacation time and no chance to focus on only HP 3000 work. 3000s were always a small part of HP. Little wonder, then, that a decision about MPE’s future remains uncertain.

While we found it hard to live with the uncertainty of our ride weekend weather, we didn’t have to wait long. By 5 AM the ride’s 8 AM start had been pushed back two hours, and by 7 AM our entire first day was cancelled. Ride director David Smith scouted the course in the early daylight and found low-water crossings were swollen. It wouldn’t have been safe to put hundreds of riders into pending thunderstorms. We had to settle for a single-day event, one that still had us pedaling off on Sunday into a steady, but light, rain shower. No camping for us.

HP 3000 customers aren’t as lucky as us riders, who still shattered fundraising goals by 30 percent, thanks to generous gifts from friends and family. No, many of you will still be eyeing your IT skies for more than a year, while you wait to see where HP’s new 3000 front will appear. Hope for the best, but keep training. We all wrapped camp gear in plastic bags, but didn’t even need the gear, since our camp-out got cancelled. You may need to be as fluid as HP’s weather to meet the challenges of your Transition ride.

— Ron Seybold

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