Roast and Toast


I guess it’s my turn now to say few words about the man we are honoring today, Vyomesh Joshi – but we can call him “VJ”.  Fill up your drinks with whatever you like because I lift my toasting glass often and I have a big glass of Sprite right here.  First, let’s all raise our glasses to Carli, Robert, Mark, Cathie, Leo, and Meg for paying for all of this.  They say that ink costs more than champagne and I am sure that we are going to prove them wrong tonight!

Cheers to Meg Whitman. *gulp*

Can anyone think of a more chaotic arrival for a new CEO of a Fortune 100 company?  Nearly six months to the day that she became HP’s CEO, Meg closed a $10.3 billion Autonomy merger, put to pasture a $1.4 billion Palm purchase, nearly sold off the Personal Systems Group (PSG) for $12 billion, and ultimately merged the world’s #1 computer maker (PSG) with the world’s #1 printer maker to form a $65 billion super group!  To top it all off, the heart and soul of the company, Mr. Vyomesh Joshi, announced his retirement.

It’ll get better, Meg.

HP Gwen

Cheers to Carli. *gulp*

Let’s not pretend that we didn’t see the merger of HP’s Personal Systems Group (PSG) with the company’s Imaging & Printing Group (IPG) coming.  Meg Whitman’s idea to merge the two giants was not original.  I myself urged Leo to do it back in August 2011 and Carli Fiorina first thought of the idea back in 2005.

In January 2005, Carli Fiorina merged HP’s very strong Imaging and Printing Group with its then very weak Personal Systems Group.  The combined division was called the Imaging and Personal Systems Group (IPSG) and our guy VJ was going to lead it.  Carli’s logic for the merger was simple – reduce costs through the elimination of redundant divisions between the two groups and go to market with a single strategy across every product that HP produces.  It would be grandiose.Carli’s 2005 version of the merger had two significant differences than what you see Meg’s merger today: 1) VJ would lead the unified IPSG and 2) the group was designed to bludgeon Carli’s #1 rival, Dell.

Cheers to Mark. *gulp*

The new IPSG never really had much of a chance.  Days after she announced the group merger, Carli was fired and replaced by Mark Hurd.  Mark’s first order of business was to undo the IPSG merger and give the keys to the Personal Systems Group to Todd Bradley.  Mark felt that the way to crush Dell was not with a gigantic boulder, but to beat Dell at its own “lean and mean supply chain” game and Todd Bradley is all about lean and mean.  Mark was right and in a few years HP became the #1 computer brand on Earth.

While Carli’s was called “IPSG” and geared to beat Dell, Meg Whitman’s recent merger of the PSG and IPG business units is called the Printing and Personal Systems Group (PPSG) and is designed to make HP more streamlined to take on new enemies.  The combined PPSG essentially gets those business units out of the way of HP’s $61 billion Enterprise Group that will toil with Oracle and IBM.  While Carli gave the reigns to VJ to lead the merged IPSG, Meg has tossed the keys to the new $65 billion PPSG to Todd Bradley.

Nobody will argue that Todd Bradley isn’t the right person to lead the PPSG, but Meg’s decision to merge the two groups and appoint Mr. Bradley as its head broadcasts three very, very, big messages.

1) Cheers to the Boogeyman *gulp*

First and foremost, Meg told all of us in the printing industry that the Boogeyman that we have long ignored in the closet is very much for real and is far, far scarier than we ever imagined.  Not only did Meg tell us that the printing industry is no longer growing, but in fact it’s contracting faster than we thought.  Blame the iPad, blame eReaders, I personally blame Facebook, but people are printing less and it’s not just at home.  How often is your cable company begging you to switch to paperless billing?

2) Cheers to the supply chain. *gulp*

With the boogeyman out of the closet, Meg’s decision to appoint Mr. Bradley suggests that she believes that future long term success does not hinge on new innovations in printing, but managing the supply chain and few are better at that game then Todd Bradley.

HP rules

3) Cheers to Invent. *gulp*

For better or for worse, the group merger and end of VJ’s reign at HP mark a new age for the company.  Gone are the days of Bill Hewlett’s and David Packard’s HP that was built on the “rules of the garage”, where the spirit of the American entrepreneur could “Believe that together we can do anything.”  As a company and culture, HP was designed to operate in small groups that would drive innovation through competition not only with the outside world, but also inside its own corporate walls.  In the 2005 days of iPods, cool colors, and splashy marketing, an innovator like VJ was the ideal choice to drive big ideas and even bigger messages to the consumer, but those days are over.  Today’s message is loud and clear: get it to market really fast and really efficiently.

Cheers to VJ. *gulp*

There is no doubt that news of VJ’s retirement made the champagne flow at every other printer maker in the world, who has long waited for the day.  I struggle to think of any executive who has achieved the same success as VJ in any industry.  VJ took over a business in 2001 that held a virtual monopoly of a mature and extremely competitive printing industry and grew it by 53% ($10 billion).  VJ was the heart and soul of HP’s most profitable division, but a division that was often discredited by its unglamorous business model (just colored water) and unfashionable products (what’s cooler: a printer or an iPhone?).  That was VJ’s magic.  He is the rare corporate evangelist that could instill passion into what were widely regarded as “boring old printers”.

I first saw VJ speak in 2000 as HP rolled out a “revolutionary” new line of printers that would carry a new “Apollo” brand name.  The printers themselves were revolutionary in that they were the first to carry prices under $100 (can you believe that?).  VJ’s presentation didn’t focus on how “affordable” these printers were, but rather that these Apollo printers would empower the world to achieve wonderful things.  He said (quote from memory) “These are not printers.  These are printing presses.  And with these printing presses we will allow everyone to share their ideas and creations with the world, just as Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette.”


I believed.

And since then, in my own little inkjet world, HP’s Imaging & Printing Group drove innovations that would spread across other technologies and categories.  HP was one the first to create a “multi-tasking” inkjet, the first to create a flatbed version, the first to create a color AiO (Copyjet), the first to put an ADF on a printer, the first to put a LCD and a touch-screen on a printer (even before cameras or phones), the first page-wide array, and the first $1,000 laser printer to name a few.  VJ’s printer group was so nimble and so forward thinking that it delivered HP’s first consumer tablet (eStation) before the computer guys did!  Perhaps VJ’s lasting innovation is ePrint and cloud printing, which is one of today’s main drivers of growth for the entire industry.

Starting in 1980 as a research engineer, VJ’s steadfast vision and passion for his products should place his career at HP in the same breath as Steve Jobs (yes, I said it).  He will be missed.

Cheers to HP’s future. *gulp*

The champagne may be flowing at printer companies and HP may be the butt of many a joke around the water coolers of Oracle, but Meg Whitman just might be right.  HP is now structured with two mighty big fists – a $65 billion Printing Personal Systems Group left hand and a $61 billion Enterprise Group right hand.  With such a direct focus, HP’s right hand will be better primed to pound against the Oracles and IBMs of the Enterprise Services, Storage, and Software world.

For HP’s new PPSG left hand, the corporate printing world has increasingly become more dependent on Managed Print Services (MPS) to drive sales.  The MPS business model relies heavily on integrated software, hardware, and support services, a list of requirements that seem a perfect fit for a combined computer, server, software, and printer super group.  Wouldn’t it have been great if PPSG had its hands on WebOS?

And if Meg is right and the printing world is all about supply chain, the buying power of a $65 billion PPSG combined with Todd Bradley’s leadership in the field and HP’s top shelf brand name……. watch out.

Watch out, indeed.

Cheers to Leo Apotheker. *gulp*

Just kidding!  I wanted one more drink…..