Fair weather
brings out
the sunbathers

Fair weather has arrived for most of our readers, and it looks like it’s settling in on the HP 3000 market as well. The computer has gained a lot of new friends in recent months, and the HP 3000 division has sold a lot more systems than was projected even during last year’s revenue revival. Looking for good news for HP 3000 customers is no longer an exercise in cutting away the chaff of Unix and NT propaganda. As these sunny outlooks light up a bright future for your business server, it may help to recall when the weather was decidedly worse.

We were out in that storm with you in 1995, with Windows NT as yet a wobbly juggernaut and Unix the prescribed forecast for all things business computing. The 3000 bloom that is apparent in the light of 1998 was a bud many were trying to nip that year.

We looked closely and noticed it blooming in the spring of 1995, when, despite the conventional wisdom, we found ample support for the 3000 among its customers as well as people inside CSY. That’s why we started our publication that long ago, entirely devoted to the 3000. The forecasts didn’t impress us much. Like most weather forecasts, we knew they were be likely to be wrong as often as right. To us, and to you, the glass of the HP 3000 was filled to the 50 percent mark. We saw it as half full, and knew of many customers who were thirsty for more.

We saw it in spite of what we heard that year from HP’s corporate and strategy-making kingpins – who are all long since toppled, with exception of the CEO, from the 3000’s divisional GM up to the czar of its computer business. We listened to customers quite happy to maintain investments in something that wasn’t Unix. Since the rest of the press wasn’t paying much attention, we considered that an opportunity.
In the months that followed, faithful customers petitioned HP repeatedly for a new look at a legendary gem, the HP 3000. They agitated for a Proposition 3000 at the 1996 IPROF conference, and the new management in CSY was listening.

Now there’s talk of celebrating a “rebirth” of the 3000, something that one of our subscribers suggested was suited for t-shirts dubbing it a Renaissance 3000 concept. We like that concept. In fact, we have liked it for nearly three years. Before Windows 95 emerged in a surf of Rolling Stones music, we arrived in Toronto at the annual Interex show with a press release to announce our newsletter with this brash quote:

“The HP 3000 is in a renaissance, as companies begin to count on the value of reliability.”

Now there’s nothing like fair weather to bring out the sunbathers. When counting friends, however, it’s more important to have a few who know how to button up the slickers and make a dry and comfy state of mind while squalls darken the skies. First came the Unix storm, now the NT showers. We’ll wait them all out with you, just like we have from the start.

It’s been suggested on the Internet that 3000 customers and advocates should do something to show support for the HP 3000 at this year’s HP World in San Diego. The idea triggered a lot of fine-tuning of t-shirt slogans and a few promotional stunts. CSY benefitted from dozens of marketing ideas contributed for free. We think being at this HP World is important to 3000 customers, and certainly this kind of summertime parade has its rewards. We enjoyed helping build the World’s Largest Poster in 1996 using sheets run off HP 3000s. In that summer, the brightest beacon for the 3000 was not the glow of sales heat but the light of faith in long-time customers’ hearts.

Those customers at the heart of the 3000 Renaissance don’t sport designer sunglasses for the bright 3000 future. They all own well-worn slickers. We suspect these friends of the 3000 – the foul-weather friends who didn’t diverge into NT development, or try to restart their companies with Unix migrations and sales offerings – know better than to think a parade of pride at HP World will matter much to HP and CSY. Sure, a parade is fun. But what feels like religion to a 3000 customer is business to HP. The real demonstration for this summer needs to come from your bottom line.

We think every one of those slicker-wearing friends will subscribe to the theory that continued sales of HP 3000s – especially to customers new to HP – will form the most lasting impression on HP. CSY officials tell us repeatedly that the good things happening to the 3000 are taking place because of increased sales. This renaissance was revenue-driven. Given the profitability of the 3000 line, orders this year will have an especially timely impact on HP Corporate, too, where profits are slipping of late.

That means you don’t have to go to HP World and wear a shirt to make a statement about your favorite computer. You can participate in the renaissance from the chair you’re reading this in. Just order an upgrade before July 31 and save some money. If you’re coming to HP World, great, wear a shirt. But this renaissance won’t be fueled in the long run by T-shirts or coverage in “significant portions” of other publications. Those are weather. Climate is an average, what you live with over many seasons. You don’t want to confuse weather with climate, as we wrote in our second issue of 1995:

“The atmosphere in HP environments is in turmoil this year. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are everywhere, as the winds of change blow constantly around desktops, networks and servers. But as an HP 3000 customer, you shouldn’t confuse foul weather with your fair climate. Climate is what we accept and live with, because our perception of it comes from a broader point of view. Nothing in a trade magazine or marketing sheet can change what’s working in your 3000 environment. The only thing that weather can change is your perception. There are no magic slickers to waterproof your environment. It takes work and experience to succeed. Wearing what’s working, instead of the latest resume-building fashion, isn’t hip. But it is responsible computing. Consider the climate the next time you see foul weather blow around your server.”

There’s only one footnote we’ll add in the glowing climate of 1998, when HP 3000 sales are at a five-year high. Nothing has changed for customers who kept the faith in the value of this legendary, legacy system. There’s more functionality on the way, but that’s always been the case. Simply, the bad weather lifted. And those who follow the fair weather have returned. Everybody needs as many friends as they can get. The ones who help you best, of course, are nearby when the weather is the worst. Enjoy that bandwagon music this year. Just remember the music begins with what you believe, and stick close to those whose faith outlasts fair weather.

– Ron Seybold