Take a chance
on the future:
Bet on change

I think the best thing about the future is its unruly nature. Just about the time you figure you’ve got the day after tomorrow scoped out, it rears its head with surprises and knocks you back into a state of wonder. How could that happen, you say, shaking your head, then checking your notes to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Most of the time you don’t miss anything, at least not in a world where information is as copious as the raindrops marching through the deep South in an unexpected winter. El Nino has had its impact on weather everywhere, much like the winds of change that spun HP’s management weathervane this month. Nobody saw the departure of Rick Belluzzo coming, an event as unexpected as the January twisters we watched appear here in Central Texas.

If Belluzzo could leave his spot as heir-apparent to the HP throne, I guess just about anything can happen in this business. Here’s HP’s Number Two, a fellow in charge of $35 billion in yearly revenues, who’s probably overseeing 60,000 jobs on the org chart. He’s poised to be the youngest CEO in the history of Hewlett-Packard since Bill Hewlett himself if he can wait just a few years, until Lew Platt gets tired of wrestling with the constant change of computing at the end of the century. Belluzzo sat in that catbird seat at one of the most successful computer companies in the world, and it wasn’t enough. He wants to lead his own parade, rescue Silicon Graphics from its mistakes. It would appear that Rick Belluzzo was at a company too successful to be interesting anymore. He wanted trouble to fix.

What’s all that got to do with the HP 3000, you’re ready to ask. It’s a great example of how the future isn’t ever assured, for anybody. Recent results show that Netscape is having trouble showing a profit. Anybody handicap that one when the stock was trading for more than $135 during its IPO? How about Novell’s plunge from favor – could you imagine a company whose product once ran on 70 million PC nodes back on its heels, looking for a way to regain its momentum? HP recently discontinued Netware for the HP 3000. It’s no longer a force for the future on MPE/iX.

You just can’t tell what’s going to happen next. That’s why I smile when people predict the eventual total domination of Windows NT. Yes, if the trends continue, I suppose that’s one likely outcome. Life doesn’t favor following trends absolutely. There’s always the wild card, the Belluzzo, the Southwest Airlines that owns 70 HP 3000s today after vowing to get rid of the only one in the company.

That certainty of change is one of the greatest allies for your HP 3000. As a product with an installed base far smaller than many systems, the 3000 doesn’t fare well in the horse-race handicaps. Analysts regularly count on leaders to finish first. These are the same sages who figured Belluzzo was a lock for the next top spot at HP. The future isn’t assured for any computer environment, technology, manager or company. That’s the fun of it, the thing that makes it all such a human experience. If it weren’t that way, we’d have machines running the businesses. They track trends better than we do.

What we can do well is try something new. A little while back I got a message from a subscriber thinking of leaving his company, along with some co-workers, to create something for the HP 3000. A company, a product, maybe even an application. Any thoughts I had on what he might do would be welcome, he said. I was excited for him as I replied. Go for it, I said. Build an application or spruce one up. Take a chance on the future, because things change. It’s good advice if you want to have more fun than security. For any other closet entrepreneurs out there pondering the potential of HP 3000 software, at startups or established companies, I have the same advice. Spin the weathervane, and find some trouble to fix. You’ve got a great tool for it in the 3000. The only sure bet is that things will change.

– Ron Seybold