HP Support keeps quiet about futures
Houston echoes community's streaks

What can HP say today?

The Greater Houston RUG International Technology Conference opens today. HP is scheduled to give an update about its HP 3000 strategy and plans for 2007-08. Since 2007 is well behind us, it might be more productive to focus on what HP could report on its plans for 2008 and beyond.

I figure the news that relates to the customers will offer these highlights of HP's e3000 work for the coming year:

1. Deliver MPE/iX 7.5 PowerPatch 5

2. Produce continuity/connectivity white papers & limited enhancements for:

  • Peripherals
  • Storage
  • Networking

3. Provide market with clear guidelines and access to:

  • Hardware upgrades
  • MPE/iX RTU licenses
  • Remarketed systems & parts
  • Add-on software

4. Continue with partner and user communications & engagements

  • Ongoing engagement with the OpenMPE Board and other partners
  • Providing communications through appropriate forums or vehicles

Hp_hardware_options Those clear guidelines in Section 3 may only be news to the 3000 site which is upgrading. Such sites may include the migration customer who needs several more years of performance from the HP 3000 installation. Or an upgrade customer could be a homesteader with no plan to migrate, or one who scrapped a plan. Some sites need a better deal for faster systems that HP cannot offer — because your vendor will not unlock the horsepower of the latest 3000 systems.

HP has many more hardware systems and environments to offer than faster 3000s or a limited enhancement to MPE/iX.. The vendor can hardly get all the replacement options onto one PowerPoint slide (see above, and click to get a larger, legible view.) But HP could say more today, about its end-game strategies (those were supposed to be done by now, until HP decided last summer to extend its business once more) and its intention to let the community take charge of the 3000's value.

HP has said something, in an FAQ file written about its Right To Use licenses. Those "clear guidelines" arrive in response to the recent SSPWD software from Advant/IRS, although HP won't connect its rewritten RTU FAQ language to SSPWD.

Let me shift into editorial mode here for a moment. This may get long, but I beg your patience.

There is one phrase in the new RTU FAQ document that speaks to the heart of HP's 3000 intentions, as I see them after 23 years of writing about the company. From the latest FAQ about the RTU licences:

"Possible violations of the MPE/iX RTU policy are not limited to the scenarios listed above."

There's nothing minor about that. It reads as a strong warning or a threat, perhaps. There's nothing in last year's RTU FAQ which comes close to this sentence. It deserves its own paragraph in the 2008 FAQ. HP could say more about this at the Greater Houston RUG meeting. A wide-open attempt at prohibition deserves explanation. How else to show the community the value in playing by HP's new rules?

See, SSPWD purports to give a customer access to the crucial ss_update routines in MPE/iX. These are tools to modify stable storage. You can change an HPSUSAN 3000 ID number with those tools, or make much more drastic revisions of a 3000’s personality. It’s little wonder HP wants a strong message about stable storage practices.

Nobody wants to see this FAQ sentence go into legal battles, but I believe the statement will not stand up in a court unless someone has signed a new license. Court was once a battleground for HP in similar matters. This community still remembers HP going to court over the HP 3000's stable storage, investigating by using public law enforcement officials, some of whom had close ties to HP Security, and then succeeding in having resellers and partners fined and convicted. Lo-jack bracelets, for some, went onto ankles of partners.

But with SSPWD now available for third party support companies to use, it looks like it will act as a lockword-breaking program to uncover passwords for ss_update. This is the community taking steps to get what it needs. I remember HP saying to the 3000 community that the vendor will unlock HP diagnostics software for the 3000. Making a promise to do that three years ago, and it's still undone. I assume that HP doesn’t consider ss_update as a diagnostic, of course

But really, how long should HP run out this clock with new licenses and FAQ warnings? Whose future is at stake here, other than the HP Services group, which continues to collect revenue for such services? It might be a small company's future at stake, one which cannot afford to migrate and then has an 3000 CPU board fail overnight. They'll need ss_update the next morning. It takes a very creative and business-toughened view to see these new licenses and "possible violations" as being in the interest of this type of 3000 owner.

While I visited the HP 3000 group one afternoon, former business manager Dave Wilde and I went to lunch  — and he said the group wants to give the system "the ending that it deserves." It sounded warm and genuine. Consider that ending to be HP's, though, not the system's or the community's. The vendor's exit is just one more milepost on the 3000's highway. Large customers are going on beyond HP's end of support business, no matter how long HP Services wants to string it out.

Maybe we can leave it to the French to lead the way here. I just read today about an aspect of French law which does not exist in US law. It's called "droit moral," meant to protect the moral rights of ownership of a work of art. Even more than HP's support group, the 3000 community considers MPE/iX to be a work of art, I believe. From a story about using droit moral:

One notion of French law that doesn't exist in the U.S. is the ownership of "droit moral" or moral right. This is an intellectual right of an artist to protect his work. When an artist dies, the "droit moral" goes to his heirs unless he appoints someone else. For example, a John Huston movie was colorized in the U.S., and the movie is shown this way in the States despite the opposition of the Huston heirs who are trying to honor their father's artistic wishes. But in France, where the Huston heirs argued their father didn't want his film to be in color, the colorized film can't be shown because of droit moral.

To some HP 3000 owners, HP will die, in their eyes, once 2008 is over and no more patches are being built. There are HP's intellectual rights to the property called the HP 3000, but there are moral rights, too. This computer would not be the keystone that it still is at places like aircraft makers and airline ticket agencies without the community's contributions, many years ago and still today. In fact, HP recognizes this kind of help in the market with the e3000 Contributor of the Year Award.

I believe that to honor droit moral for the 3000 community, HP's increasingly restrictive statements of licensing need to stop. The vendor's support group needs to move on to other profitable markets and leave this group of owners and customers to continue using this computer, without extra payments to HP. I know Hewlett-Packard is still spending on the 3000 — but apparently so little that it cannot budget for a MPE/iX transfer project through fiscal 2008, and probably not through fiscal 2009, either. Those are budget choices which do not extend much good will, in my opinion, to such loyal customers. These companies signed on years ago for a value proposition and vendor faith which some of them cannot see anymore.

Some in the community understand how customers might be confused about who will have the moral right to what in a few years — the day when HP is finished collecting revenues in support and passing the profits down to HP's bottom line. I feel sad when I think of the good and loyal 3000 advocates, people who did as much as they could within HP's limits to help this system stay in HP's lineup. It seems that now they must make the corporate bottom line needs of HP come first. I am struggling to see this as "the ending the 3000 deserves."