One less model of rectitude

Tom Peters puts the HP scandal in correct perspective:

I moved to a youthful Silicon Valley in 1970, and stayed 30 years. I was around for the founding, among others, of Apple and Sun. On one or more occasions I heard Steve Jobs or Scott McNealy say, in effect or precisely, “When we grow up we want to be like Hewlett-Packard.” Insanely competitive Scott was still saying it when HP became his principal rival. He was dismissive of HP’s technology compared to Sun’s—but still in awe of this seminal, defining Silicon Valley institution.

HP, in an ever crazier industry, made its full share of marketplace slips. But its character (HP’s true “core competence”) was our collective bellwether and fog-cutting lighthouse in a raging sea.

On September 28th that glorious era ended.

“I do not accept personal responsibility for what happened.” —Patricia Dunn, chairman.

Some are comparing the HP leaks investigation to Enron and Worldcom. On the one hand, that’s ridiculous. Tens of thousands of loyal employees were not left pension-free, for one thing. But on the other hand, the HP fiasco is worse. Enron and Worldcom were Johnnies-come-lately. While many of us admired their daring do, we sure as hell never thought of them as models of rectitude. That honor was left to HP and a tiny handful of others—e.g. Johnson & Johnson, UPS, Medtronics.

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