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How old is HP, anyway? Now its CEO knows

Whitman-2012Computerworld is reporting this morning on another element in HP's annual shareholder meeting. Yesterday the company announced its Global Sales group is now part of an uber-unit including enterprise servers. Oh, and PCs and printers now come from the same group. But the gathering of officers and investors, some less institutional and older than its CEO, included a history lesson. The newest CEO apparently didn't know the age of HP.

Meg Whitman, who's been on the HP board even longer than her seven-month tenure as CEO, has been telling the world HP celebrates its 70th birthday in 2014. HP's one of the few Silicon Valley companies that old, she brags. Except that birthday already arrived almost three years ago. In 2014, HP will be 75, "according to the company's website," Computerworld said in its story. Of the "70 in 2014," it said

It's a line Whitman's been using for the past few months as she tries to drum up enthusiasm for the new, reinvigorated HP she hopes to build. The only trouble is, it appears to be wrong, as an elderly shareholder gently pointed out to her.

"I believe HP was founded in 1939," he said during the question-and-answer session after her talk. Wouldn't that make HP 75 in 2014?

"For three or four months I've been telling people we're going to set HP up for the next 70 years because we're 70 years old, and you're the first person to correct me on that, so thanks very much," Whitman said.

The Computerworld story also noted questions from the shareholders about why HP couldn't be as successful as Apple (whose market valuation is now 10 times HP's). Or why there couldn't be HP stores, like Apple's, to get a product repaired, instead of a three-week shipment of a replacement printer across the US. In her Apple replies, Whitman acknowledged the genius of Steve Jobs -- a fellow whose brief history of HP employment occured less than 40 years ago.

There will be fewer sales people employed at HP soon, based on a reading of what Whitman said at the meeting. Adding sales executives didn't produce extra sales, she said, "so we're going to reorganize ... and make sure we get our costs back in line with our revenues."