HP's show features different players, same agenda
Handling migrations of systems and groups with grace

HP CEO cuts to the questions

Mark Hurd spoke before HP customers at yesterday's HP Technology Forum, a keynote that cut almost directly to questions rather than linger on a 15-minute speech. Hurd was self-effacing and relaxed in front of a crowd top-heavy with his employees; when he opened his presentation with "good morning," attendees barked "good morning" right back at him. Perhaps everybody was in sales contact mode with less than two weeks remaining in HP's fiscal year. Hurd said that he was "shamelessly in tactical mode" while trying to wrap up HP's fourth quarter. He came to the conference from speaking across town at the Gartner IT conference, so his keynote didn't start until 11.

After three minutes of introductory remarks, Hurd repaired to the center of the stage to sit down for a "Q&A" session with his senior VP David Booth asking prepared questions. Although the format was obviously rehearsed it was a good choice, giving Hurd a chance to show off humor and insight into the challenge HP's facing as it emerges from the years of Carly Fiorina's hubris and change. While Hurd's got to respect what he's been handed to manage, he had a few well-placed quips at hand to show his leadership won't be a complete rubber stamp. HP 3000 customers hoping for a miraculous shift back to their system didn't hear those magic words of return, though.

Hurd wanted to assure the crowd that feedback from customers was back in vogue at HP, perhaps a result of the shift in leadership at HP's Palo Alto HQ. "There is some belief, and I don't know that it's pervasive, that all great ideas eminate from Palo Alto," Hurd said. When the laughter began, Hurd added, "That's a smaller group now." He went on to say that "the farther we get away from our presales organization, our sales organization, our partners and customers, the harder it is to align the stuff we're working on to bring solutions to customers."

Hurd also espoused a desire to eliminate "the checkers of the checkers" process at HP, paring back mid-management levels. This drew outright applause from the crowd. He also worked on a little humor. When asked if his management strategy would go beyond cost-cutting, he quipped, "Nah. Just costs. That's working for us."

In the day's only HP 3000 session, business manager Dave Wilde reviewed the company's strategy and the division's accomplishments during the past four years of transition era, a talk that also did not contain a change of direction from the vendor. Wilde said most customers have undertaken the start of their journey. "There's been a shift over the past couple of years, where most customers are in that planning and implementation phase now," he said.

Some news emerged in the hour-plus presentation. HP has extended its sales of add-on software products through September, 2006, breaking through the previous deadline of June 30 of this year. The vendor will do 3000 support on a time and materials basis after 2006 "to do license transfers and conversions of HP 3000s to HP 9000s." Hardware experts at the conference have said turning an A-Class or N-Class 3000 into an HP 9000 is a quick path to the lowest value for such systems, which are bringing much better sale prices on the reseller market.

HP continued a tradition from the days of HP World conferences at the 3000 briefing, a meeting attended by about 35 people including many from the reseller community. OpenMPE board director and long-time Special Interest Group leader Donna Garverick won this year's e3000 Contributor Award. Prior award winner Birket Foster was quick to link up the meeting room with Garverick, who wasn't attending the conference, so Wilde could pass on his congratulations. The plaque for the award kept the spirit of Garverick's all-lower-case messages on the 3000-L, spelling her name without capital letters.