Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nicely done, Epson - and CTA / CES

In my August 2015 Observations, I raved about the new line of Epson EcoTank printers and how their mega-ink-capacity (aka #SuperTank) would ease real customer pain points, relieving the hassle and mess (as well as expense) of frequent ink-cartridge shopping and swapping. (See "Epson’s EcoTank Printers make a big splash, for good reasons!")

So it should come as no surprise that the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), sponsor of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), has named one of Epson's new products, the WorkForce ET-4550 to be precise, as a winner of one of their 2016 Innovation awards.

As far as criteria for the award, here is what the release states:
The WorkForce ET-4550 was evaluated based on its engineering, aesthetic and design qualities, intended use/function and user value, how the design and innovation of the product directly compares to other products in the marketplace and unique/novel features present.
Good call CTA / CES, and congratulations Epson America!

Monday, November 02, 2015

HP Splits Today - what about HP Labs?

With the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange minutes away, and the official beginning of trading of the two companies' shares ($HPQ for HP Inc and $HPE for HP Enterprise), all the planning and much of the speculation is behind us.

While completing a story on some new LaserJet printers recently (see "HP Printer Group Keeps Minding Customer Needs with new LaserJets for the Enterprise"), and their emphasis on data security, I wondered about this being perhaps a worry for the PC and Printer company (HPQ). Specifically, would it be a problem putting distance between them and their security-focused Enterprise mates, going from being all under-the-same-corporate-roof to being in separate companies. My HP Inc contacts assured me the relationship would simply evolve into a strong partnership, one like they have with so many companies already. And an HP spokesperson, when asked about the venerable HP Labs and how the split affects them, responded,

"HP Labs will be divided based on research area. Shared research between the two companies will remain with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with a licensing agreement to HP Inc."

With that said, congrats are in order to CEO Meg Whitman and all my friends at both HP Enterprise and HP Inc!!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cheapskate Blog on Color Laser and Inkjet Printing

Today's Cheapskate Blog - via Cnet  - is touting a Ricoh color laser printer for $69.99 via online retailer Adorama.

That is a crazy-good deal, and not unusual for Rick Broida - the face behind the Cheapskate. I've used Rick's guidance to get great deals on PCs, storage products, power adapters, and accessories for years now.

While I have yet to meet Rick, I do enjoy his commentaries as well, that come along with his daily (or nearly daily) deals. Today's on color printing is classic - reflecting end user attitudes that favor laser printing over inkjet printing, even in 2015!

If you want to print in color, inkjet printers have always been the necessary evil: They're way less expensive than color lasers, or at least it seems that way until you have to replace their ink cartridges every five minutes.
Me, I've always preferred laser printers, which tend to cost more up front but have a lower total cost per page.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October Observations - Happy Lifelong Learning Day!

This is the first screen in the brief "Lifelong Learning Day" video - what a fit with my "ten year thing"!
Yesterday I posted a brief note observing the 10-year anniversary of my final day of work at HP (see "Ten Years After"). It was a simple "milestone" post, about an anniversary I did not want to pass unnoticed. But about the same time I was prepping the post, I heard an NPR underwriting announcement from Road Scholar, with the news that today (October 15) is the inaugural National Lifelong Learning Day, which they sponsor.

Road Scholar is a 40-year-old organization based in Boston, billing itself as "the world's largest educational travel organization for adults", and while I have yet to take one of their trips, I have been well aware of several and hope to join one of their adventures sometime in the near future. And when I sought out a little more information about Lifelong Learners Day and found a YouTube video (screenshot above), I was a bit stunned, and pleased, to see their reference to learning and "ten years from now" -- looking back at my post-HP decade, learning has been a continuous theme for me.


Of course, becoming a columnist/blogger/analyst in the printing and imaging industry was a huge part of my past ten years, and commenced almost immediately after leaving the corporate world. While I had a great deal of industry knowledge to apply from the beginning, learning the ropes of traditional hard-copy newsletter reporting (writing style, editing cycles, deadlines, etc.) was a challenge. And that was followed almost immediately by setting up and publishing my own independent blog (this one), and evolving with social media including becoming fairly expert on many of the latest and greatest platforms. But I will have more on that journey in next month's Observations.

Learning to teach

Within a year of leaving HP, I was fortunate to have a fellow company alum who left the same time I did (it helped that he was a long-time friend as well) guide me into the world of college-level teaching with the University of Phoenix. Based on my career background and MBA-level education, I was deemed qualified to teach both undergraduate and graduate Marketing and Economics, at both our local on-ground campus as well as online, following successful completion of an excellent faculty training program. 80+ courses later, I still learn a great deal about my subjects during each course, and am very grateful for the continuing opportunity to pass along a little of what I've learned throughout my education and career to younger generations. Plus, the pressure to "know your stuff" when lecturing or grading papers does wonders for motivation for getting caught with your subject!

Class Central provides a good starting point for learning about upcoming MOOCs

The mad, mad world of MOOCs

Eager to build my skills, and also just plain curious to be on the other side of the online learning equation (i.e. being a student), I have enrolled in and completed more than 30 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC's) over the last four years. Also, the value of enrolling and completing can be overstated - in addition to everything I've learned from those successfully completed courses, I've also learned a ton from some of those enrolled-but-not-completed choices too!

My full list can be seen via my LinkedIn profile, but highlights via (mostly) Coursera and EdX include a variety of content areas, including subjects which I could use to supplement my teaching (see above), and also refreshing my skills in the ever-expanding world of data science. I majored in Quantitative Methods while earning my BS at University of Oregon, way back when, and then a Marketing/Econometrics emphasis at Cornell's Johnson School where I received my MBA in 1981. As I discovered (and am still finding out), lots of what I learned (no surprise) has advanced significantly. At the same time, I am bolstered by the fact that I have a pretty good foundation - even as regression analysis no longer requires a four-function calculator and lots of scratch paper! (More coming on this in future blog posts also.)

Osher Institute

As I wind up this look at my personal lifelong learning journey over the last ten years, I must mention my hometown resource that I continue to enjoy. That is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Boise State University. The program offers classroom experiences for the 50+ crowd, with some of our area's leading professors (from BSU and elswhere), as well as with leading experts from beyond academia. The offering is rich and diverse, and just today (Lifelong Learning Day!) I will be spending two hours in the morning in an "Art, Architecture and Culture of Venice" course, as well as two hours in the afternoon attending the middle of five weeks' worth of lectures on the "History of London since 1666".

In conclusion

I am committed to learning more in the next ten years, to answer the question from the Road Scholar video! Organizing my thoughts and experiences enough to record them here in what I hope is a reasonably cognizant fashion has been a pleasurable if somewhat indulgent exercise. But I hope too that at least some readers can find a tip or two here to facilitate their own paths of lifelong learning!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ten Years After

I have used this legendary band-name as a headline (but not the image) in the past, but today it seems appropriate again for my today's anniversary.

Ten years ago today, I put in my last day as an HP employee. It was a great run for me, starting in 1981, spanning a period when Hewlett-Packard was deemed among the most admired companies out there. I have had a very fulfilling "second career" since, which I will be reflecting on here in the coming days and weeks. So just a note for now, and assurance I am eagerly looking ahead to the next ten!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Memories - EMC to be acquired by Dell

Today's announcement that EMC will be acquired by Dell in a $67 million deal is notable for many reasons. It's the biggest tech merger ever, and the largest deal of all time where a private company (Dell) will be taking a public company ($EMC) private.

But it also teases out some pretty ancient memories for me, and coincidentally I will mention my first job at HP for the second post in a row! (See "Revisiting Splitsville"). A check at Wikipedia reveals EMC was founded in 1979 as a provider of third-party disk storage for Prime Computer. But as they branched out, the Disk Memory Division (DMD) of HP became very aware of them, as a "parasitic" supplier of disk storage for HP minicomputers. As a captive supplier of disk storage ourselves, DMD was in a generally excellent business position and was for a time the HP division with the largest revenue of them all - more than that of even the minicomputer divisions we supplied. But following IBM's lead and their approach to third-party suppliers of disk storage, we saw it as a scourge that needed to fought off aggressively.

That was about 30 years ago, and it is amazing to think that EMC has had such a prosperous history since!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September 2015 Observations - Revisiting Splitsville

A rocky stock market during 2015 has not been kind to $HPQ
Revisiting Splitsville – it’s a good thing
During the waning days of September, we are now just a month away from the split of Hewlett Packard ($HPQ) into a Printer and PC Company (HP Inc.) and an equally-sized business, revenue-wise, HP Enterprise, with servers, software and services making up its lines of business. Reports are that the behind-the-scenes efforts to cleave the $100 Billion company into two have been proceeding with “military-like precision”, as CEO Meg Whitman likes to say. As the official day of separation day draws near, at least one financial talking head suggests the move making a $100 Billion behemoth into two $50 Billion behemoths as merely backwards-looking “financial engineering”, with little real innovation taking place these days at the firm which started Silicon Valley way back in 1939. (See Jim Chanos’s charges and Whitman’s defense in this CNBC video.) So what do I think? I am growing in my enthusiasm, especially as I look back at all the positive connotations the word “split” has had for HP during its history.

Reminiscing about the positive nature of splits in the HP culture
I wrote about the announced plan to split a year ago in a guest post at Actionable Intelligence (see “It’s Splitsville in Palo Alto”, ). While the use of the term, “Splitsville”, was intended to be taken in a light-hearted way, I found the characterization of the split as a “divorce” by some other industry analysts as heavy-handed and overly negative, while I remained fairly neutral in my views on the split. Now, as the day gets closer, I have been turning more positive, overall. I think it comes partly from having to do with HP’s story under the microscope lately due to contention over the true history behind the firing of a current-day presidential primary candidate, and the stimulus that has offered to think back to what “split” signified in culture of the “HP Way”, while I was employed there at least (from 1981 to 2005). So as the split-date nears, I am much more inclined to think the cleavage is the right thing to do.

Going back to my first days at HP, I learned quickly from my co-workers at Boise’s Disc Memory Division in 1981, two of the most revered concepts had to do with “splits”. One was the stock split, which regularly followed an also-regular runup in the company’s common stock. It was considered a nearly dead-certain occurrence following year-in, year-out growth and profits. With a generous stock-purchase incentive program, this made everyone happy!
While not "every year", as it felt at times, HP stock splits were frequent, with six between 1979 and 2000
The other very positive outcome associated with the term “split” was the “division split” – the seemingly naturally occurring dividing of a successful business (a “division” in HP parlance) once its growth had taken it to a certain level of revenue, $100 Million being the ballpark number in the 1980s. (The LaserJet division, it should be noted, grew to over $1 Billion by the early 1990s, before its cleavage into Network, Business and Personal divisions.) The division split was the ultimate acknowledgement of success – viewed as a payoff to all involved in the growth of the original unit, and resulted in more management opportunities and professional growth.

Writing a book…or at least reading one
A few weeks after the year-ago announcement, I penned my October Observations, musing that it might be time for me to undertake a modern history of HP in the form of a book. (See "The Other Shoe..."). Inspired by author Eric Larson and full of thoughts about all the big picture meanings of the announced split, I mused that there might be a book project “in there somewhere”. But while that ambition lies fallow, I did go back to a fairly current (through 2010) volume on HP's history, the admirable The HP Phenomenon by Chuck House and Raymond Price. (I referenced the work previously in this blog, in my tribute to Ray Smelek in the post, “How Boise, Idaho Became a Printer Capital”.)

In that text, I found the word “split” mentioned 11 times. It was almost always used in terms of growth and innovation. And speaking of innovation, the late Lew Platt offered his wisdom, transcribed from a speech, and included by House and Price as Appendix D, and titled “Managing Innovation: An Oxymoron?” (As a reminder, Platt was the last of the “home grown” HP CEOs, replaced by the first in a series of relatively short-lived outsiders in 1999.) His comments about innovation bristle with the “HP Way” wisdom of keeping things lean and mean, and breaking things up whenever stagnation started to set in. (His replacement made her stab at success based on what might be argued an opposite aggregation strategy.) Splitting a business, an R&D lab, a marketing department – these all fit with the wisdom of Platt and even go along with his somewhat whimsical title referring to the oxymoron of management of what some would consider an unmanageable process, beyond providing the right environment.

The Printer Group – innovating like always, even better?
So will a “leaner meaner” HP Inc. and HP Enterprise offer more innovation and in turn more shareholder value, overcoming the "conglomerate discount", in the words of current CEO Whitman? To me the early resuts, even ahead of the formal split, give a strong indication the answer is “yes”. Of my most recent blog posts, I have penned three about examples what I consider some of the most customer-oriented innovations in the printer industry that I have seen in a long time. Two of those three were from HP, and cover both the consumer market and the enterprise market. (See “More inkjet customer focus - HP eliminates anxiety" and "HP Printer Group Keeps Minding Customer Needs with new LaserJets for the Enterprise".) And it's interesting to note that the “Enterprise” example will remain with the printers and PC’s in HP Inc., after October 31st. This led me to asking HP a few specific things about some of the alignment details post-split. I will save those questions (and answers) for a (near) future post.