HP and Acquisitions – Not a Very Happy History…

It is worth mentioning, with the current fuss over the Autonomy buy-out, that HP has a relatively unhappy history with regard to its acquisitions…

Going back to the 80s, HP bought out a Unix workstation rival – Apollo – that soon vanished without trace, and led to one of the HP co-founders – Dave Packard – briefly coming back out of retirement as an ‘advisor’ to the board, and who – apparently – was heard to angrily announce words to the effect that ‘we don’t buy our competitors, we aim to compete with them, and put them out of business’.     I was working for HP in the UK at the time, and we were told that Apollo’s UK ‘consulting’ group would soon be joining us, only to find that they had voted with their feet, and resigned en-mass..

One of the more successful acquisitions in the ’90s – in the high-end Unix server business – was Convex, based at Richardson in Texas.    I had been developing and negotiating a comprehensive worldwide OEM support services agreement with them, and had just about got all the terms agreed after many months of negotiation, and we then learned that HP had just bought the company!

Many of the more recent ‘hardware’ acquisition failures – such as Palm – have been well documented elsewhere, but another little-known acquisition that I was briefly involved with was Bluestone Software, who had developed their own ‘middleware’ Java enterprise software stack..    They were supposed to be participating in an ‘HP Day’ at one of our major customer/partner sites, in North San Jose, and they had a table allocated next to the HP Linux one, where I was setting up shop..    Hours passed, and no-one turned up..    In the end, I just pushed the two tables together, and handed out the Bluestone demo CDs to anyone who was interested..    Today, the bluestone.com website sells jewellery…

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012


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