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Apple buys HP 3000 campus to return home

AppleLandBuy2010 The home for development and management of the HP 3000 business has been sold to Apple Computer, putting the 98 acres between Pruneridge Ave. and Homestead Road back into the hands of HP's rival in the consumer computing business. That "return to home" view is being promoted by Steve Wozniak in an interview about the $300 million sale of HP's enterprise computing campus.

The Woz started his computer industry career on an HP campus back in the 1970s. The legend is told that he pitched the design and concept of a personal computer to Hewlett-Packard but got turned down, then left the company to found Apple with Steve Jobs. On the Cult of Mac website, The Woz commented on the site's story about the 98-acre sale, a transaction first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Woz worked for the most innovative HP group of the time, the Advanced Products Division, until HP wanted to move APD to Oregon. Woziak then logged about a month working at DSD -- home group of the predecessor to the 3000's General Systems Division, which finally was organized as a separate Computer Systems Divison. The General Systems Division contained the HP 1000 and HP 3000 operations during the years Woz worked at HP, the late '70s when the computer gained IMAGE as a bundled database as well as stole market share from IBM's batch mainframes.

Apple purchased the land and buildings where the 3000 gained its PA-RISC design as well as the creation of a 32-bit MPE. In the Mercury News coverage, its John Boudreau contrasts what Apple has done in 2010 against the cutbacks and acquisitions common at places like HP. "What most distinguishes Apple is the way it has climbed these heights," Boudreau writes. "While other tech titans spent 2010 cutting costs and acquiring new technology through mergers, this $65 billion company is innovating like a startup."

With the purchase of the HP campus, Apple's jammed main campus can now expand to the buildings where its co-founder did research that led to Apple's first product. Woz remembered when HP was his benefactor.

Apple really is returning home. Actually, almost all of the Apple ][ development occurred in the HP calculator division (APD) which was located in the section acquired earlier. When this HP division moved to Corvallis, Oregon, my wife did not want to move so I transferred to HP’s Data Systems Division (HP 3000) across Pruneridge and I worked there for about one month, at first choosing not to start Apple due to my love for HP.

Apple paid HP $300 million for land and buildings that it's probably years away from using fully, while HP was glad to tells analysts about making a 4-cent a share profit for its 2011 Q1 off the sale. The transaction shows two companies heading in different fiscal directions. Maybe that's why Apple's stock is trading at seven times the price of HP shares. HP said in its latest quarterly briefing that it's the only company strong in both comsumer and enterprise computing, to give it opportunities no competitor can access.

HP's strength in consumer computing pales to the Apple business, however. Apple will sell more than 13 million iPads thhis year to launch the tablet computer industry. HP's Slate tablet began being sold last month as an enterprise solution, after the company first pitched it in May as a consumer product. Meanwhile, iPads are surging as an enterprise computing solution, injected into IT groups by executives much the same way iPhones were by 2008.

Apple has also bought up parts of HP that it acquired when Hewlett-Packard merged with Compaq. In 2006 Apple purchased the old Tandem campus across Pruneridge from the Cupertino site -- and Apple hasn't fully moved into that, either. The company believes that it will be easier to earn city permits for renovation of the properties with the combined acreage under one owner. Apple is now the largest taxpayer in the city of Cupertino. On Cult of Mac, the HP campus is reported to have a connection to Apple’s earliest computer, the Apple I.

HP rolled out the HP 3000 about four years before Apple began selling its personal computers. Each hawked a concept new to computing -- the desktop computer for Apple, the interactive minicomputer for the 3000. (Ad image below courtesy of the HP Computer Museum website -- a superior Web resource for Hewlett-Packard history, right down to the 30-year-old price lists in the archived copies of HP's Computer News internal publication.)

3000Ad1972 The Woz said he used HP's DSD equipment when he created the Apple I monitor programs. And so the campus that was already the home of the HP 3000 became a part of the Apple Computer birth suites.

“This is also the division of HP that had the PROM burners I used to burn the 256-byte 'monitor' program of the Apple I," Woz said on Cult of Mac. 'It took two PROM chips – not much memory in those days. I had previously learned how to burn these PROMs to display 4-letter words when you missed the ball on a Pong game I’d built for myself,” he wrote on the website's comments board.

New HP CEO Leo Apotheker said in last week's FY 2010 financial briefing that the company's operations in enterprise computing -- a new phrase pushed in the presentation -- are moving to a more productive space in Palo Alto, where the original HP campus is being expanded for occupancy by 2012. While Apple expands its presence in high-cost, high-value Silicon Valley, HP is trimming back its footprint in its birthplace. HP expects cost cutting to remain a significant part of its 2011 fiscal strategy. Few of its Silicon Valley properties would fetch anywhere near as much as the 3000's birthplace, however.