December 18, 2015
Will The Farce always be with us?
It was well past quitting time this week when I saw the force re-awaken on my TV. In our den, that television is a 7-year-old Bravia LCD, which in TV terms is something like an N-Class server today. A fine midrange machine for its day, but mostly revered now for its value. We paid for it long ago and it continues to work without worries or repairs. Remaining 3000 owners, raise your hands if that's your situation.
On the Bravia, Abby and I watched Steven Colbert's late-night show. Like all of the talk shows it opened with comedy, because by 11:30 Eastern you're ready to laugh and forget the troubles of the day. Colbert poked fun at the latest Republican Presidential debate. You probably can see where this is going now, since a famous HP CEO remains in the running for that job.
Within a few minutes I watched the comedy lampoon of CNN's teaser for its debate broadcast. The leaders in that race swoosh by in close-ups, each with a light that washes across their face and their name blazing below. Trump. Cruz. Bush, and so on, but the lineup of hopefuls this week remains too long for everybody to get their name ablaze. The rest of CNN teaser included faces of other candidates, including the infamous Carly Fiorina. No name there.
But Colbert wasn't quite done. Following Carly's face were other close-ups. Faces from the cast of The Walking Dead washed across. We couldn't contain our delight at the skewering of Carly and the rest. HP's third-most-famous CEO was still having the last laugh, though, since HP became two companies as a result of merging with Compaq. Her Farce continues, even while the HP split-up tries to recover from the Hewlett-Packard fall she induced.
We kept watching, even through the late hour, because a J.J. Abrams-Harrison Ford skit would air after the commercial. Oh, what an ad, how it pushed along The Farce. HP Inc. rolled out a commercial for its new Star Wars-themed laptop, a device so crucial to HP Inc success the laptop was mentioned in the latest quarterly analyst report. The tsunami of Star Wars branding is at its peak today while the critically acclaimed blockbuster opens to a sold-out weekend. HP's PC is just the kind of thing Carly would tout with a stage appearance. Thinking a laptop will make a $50 billion corporation's needle move is something of a Farce, but you never know. Nobody knew that The Farce of Carly's HP could cleave off a loyal customer base, either. Then there's the farce of Carly's convenient truthiness about her role in what she did while leading at HP.
It was leadership, but down into a ditch. HP's breakup is the evidence that becoming the biggest computer maker in the world — one that didn't want to make 3000s anymore — was a mistake, if not a misdeed. Low margins on big sales didn't endear customers for decades. The 3000 people stayed true to HP for decades, at least a couple. Unique products like 3000s, not Star Wars laptops, paid the bills with their profits.
Yes, it's a Farce. But will it always be with us, we luminous beings of the MPE community? How can we forgive the past when it's so difficult to forget? It made me wonder how and when we might let Hewlett-Packard off the mat, even while Carly's Farce plays out its end days.When I posed that question to Abby — as she recovered from a hip replacement which my government is helping fund with her Medicare — Abby said it might not be soon. Our futures changed, like yours, when the 3000 became an End of Lifer in the new Very Large HP. Carly's Farce was believing a very large corporation would continue its growth unchecked. Endless growth isn't possible in economics, but endless devotion might be something real, not a farce.
I say of a few people, "I'll hate 'em until I die." It's unkind and unskilled. But mostly it's about sports, a place where passion lives. The 3000 owners, some of them anyway, displayed that kind of passion. Derek Fisher, the Laker who killed off my beloved San Antonio Spurs' chance to defend a title, tossing in a miracle shot with 0.4 seconds left — him, I'll hate until I die. Abby and I sat in seats in the ATT Center and watched that 2004 devastation. We'd already been blindsided by HP more than two years earlier. But for a Lakers fan, Fisher's shot was a stellar moment. Some HP reps and execs found that End of Life promise about the 3000 to be a stellar moment. It rattled my faith in HP. We could all have faith in HP until 2001. HP's first and second most famous CEOs saw to that, because their names were on the company.
As it turns out, faith is at the heart of The Force. The newest movie restores the faith of the Original Three films, but none more so than The Empire Strikes Back. Deep at its core that 1980 movie contains an exchange between Luke and Yoda. The young Jedi is trying to raise his X-Wing out of the Degobah swamp, using the Force. He struggles to lift it and collapses. Yoda takes over and the small creature uses the Force. The fighter soon sits on a bank beside the swamp.
"I don't believe it," Luke says.
"That," says Yoda, "is why you fail."
Okay, forgive me for sharing a moment so dear to my heart. I considered Empire's story my religion, in my years after Catholicism. My point for the readers who are still with me is that belief, shown as faith, is essential to loyalty and continued growth. Apple is going to have to acknowledge, in time, that it's saturated the world's computer users. It'll be a moment like the late '90s when new 3000 customers became as rare as Integrity buyers of today. What's left, to continue the growth, is the same thing the old pre-Carly HP used. Repeat business from existing customers. That is something HP failed to recover, and so it could not lift its X-Wing of the 3000 out of the Hewlett-Packard miasma of "If it's not growing, it's going." The 3000 wasn't going to survive a Compaq merger where VAX systems competed with 3000s.
Waiting for a Jedi master like Yoda to teach us about any faith in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise would be foolish. We don't need to learn, we have to unlearn what we have learned. Yoda told that to Luke. We need to unlearn our lessons about how a company could promote stock price and market size while its CEO knew and cared little about its products. That neglect might look like Apple coming to care little about its Mac line. Funny thing is, even while Apple made its cuts to the Mac, the force of faith remains strong in its customers. Mac sales keep growing, even while tablets cratered HP's Very Big plan, even while iPhones came to rule Apple rather than laptops and desktops.
LIke those laptops at Apple, there was always a core of profit in those phones, though. Apple charged more for them and relied on the faith of customers to remain loyal. I believe in the power of faith to move hearts and let us all survive the future. Once we have faith in Hewlett-Packard to hold its products in highest regard, instead of its growth and stock price, to see it pursue profits through quality and loyalty, we might release our anger.
Forgiveness is a vulnerable act. In forgiving we believe we're capable of trust after a mistake or a misdeed. Maybe after Carly exits the political field, I can work on forgiveness. She seems too shabby to hate until I die. Whenever forgiveness happens, that day could mark my start of leaving The Farce behind.
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