Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year - and my personal "new tech" update

OK, just a quick year-end Happy New Year greeting to end 2012 and look ahead to 2013. But as the year ends, I wanted to set the record straight on some of my own personal technology portfolio decisions of late.

It took awhile but I am now in the iPhone 5 tent  (and yes those new earbuds are cool!)
In September, I blogged about my hesitation to move up to the iPhone 5, all based around its new connector and the feeling I would be fighting with my own household's "installed base" of old-school Apple connectors (see "For Want of a Nail..."). Well, I caved, and am now a proud iPhone 5 owner/user. (The owner part came a month earlier than the user part, btw!) Will now be juggling THREE connectors for the foreseeable future, including old and new Apples and of course, microUSB for Kindles, Nexus, and even a cool extended battery/case accessory I've been using for the iPhone.
After wavering, I figured out I really like Windows 7!
Around Thanksgiving, with less fanfare, I purchased, then returned a Windows 8 PC I had planned to use to upgrade the failed home office PC which had served us well for years. Actually, "returned" is not quite right - I kept the new hardware, as the reseller (Office Depot) couldn't swap it out with a new Windows 7 machine,  and instead I paid for their assistance in "downgrading" the HP desktop to Windows 7. (As a Microsoft Developer program subscriber, I have licenses for clean (i.e. now OEM crapware) Win 7 versions, and the downgrade - which I was advised is beyond the skills of simple advanced users - includes the advantage, and was priced the same as Depot's "de-crapwaring" service for new machines.)

And spurning Windows 8 after my experience with its difficult interface (or at least learning curve) and certain inconvenient incompatibilities, I've also just ordered a new Windows 7 machine (oddly still available from OEMs) for the office.
The Little Printer is cute and I want one, but still need some time
I also blogged recently about cancelling an order for another new gadget (see "Berg Ships Little Printer...") and have not regretted that. "Gadget fatigue" is real, at least for me lately, and while I suggested I might re-order this fascinating hard-copy product in early 2013, I will need to catch my breath from the routines with the new iPhone 5 and the Windows 7/8 back-and-forth first.

And with that, Happy 2013 to all of you!

Friday, December 28, 2012

December Observations: Spin-off Spinning – Looking Ahead to “The HP Printing Company”

December 2012 Observations

Observations: Spin-off Spinning – Looking Ahead to “The HP Printing Company”

My former employer, printing and imaging giant Hewlett Packard, has been the source of much bad news over the last few years. CEO turnover, over-priced acquisitions, and strategic stumbling have all made the company, started by “Bill and Dave” in 1939, the subject of much derision and speculation. And a tumbling stock price has made the ongoing crisis very real for share-holding employees and retirees.
HPQ stock price since 2000

The stock price, bouncing off a decade low in recent weeks, has been buoyed in recent days by calls for breaking up the company and rumors of corporate vultures like Carl Icahn circling (see "Rumors of Carl Icahn's interest..." ). The accompanying speculation makes one ponder a future with an independent HP Printing Company in our industry’s midst.

Could once-proud HP, founding firm of Silicon Valley, really be in Icahn's sights?
The most recent and most severe downward spiral began about a year and half ago with news that had little to do with the printing side of the house. The August 2011 announcements included a proposed spinoff of HP’s PC business and the cancellation of the firm’s short-lived TouchPad tablet computer (a would-be Apple iPad competitor that barely made a blip in the market) and exit from their WebOS investment, acquired via Palm in 2010. The simultaneous large acquisition of UK-based Autonomy, a provider of infrastructure software for the enterprise, was widely criticized as being too pricey at the time. (By November of 2012, HP management had accused the acquired company’s management of accounting improprieties, which led to that over-priced deal, seemingly discovering that the price was too high, well more than a year after the rest of the world caught on!)

That series of decisions in August 2011 was not at all well received by investors and industry watchers, lead to the departure of another CEO, Leo Apotheker, the third top executive to make an exit since 2006. Apotheker was replaced by current CEO Meg Whitman, who reversed the PC spin-off idea, and moved the former Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) under the company’s PC business and the leadership of Todd Bradley, simultaneously bidding adieu to “retiring” long-time printer chief Vyomesh Joshi.

And now, the world seems antsy about HP and its ability to turn things around. Some believe this situation to be a classic case of negative synergy – where the sum of the parts following a breakup of the firm would have more value than the current whole. According to some, we could see an independent HP Printing Company in the near future.

So what of a spin-off of the printer group? A little more history is worth noting at this point as this is not the first time the idea has surfaced. In 2002, former CEO Carly Fiorina successfully completed the acquisition of Compaq Computer. Before the deal was done one of the founder’s sons, Walter Hewlett, led a bitter proxy fight against the merger and suggested then that the IPG organization could fare better and bring higher value on its own (see “Hewlett suggests HP spin offprinting unit”, ). At that time, spin-offs for HP were hardly unknown – its original business in test and measurement products was successfully spun out, as Agilent, in the 1990s.

Spinning off HP's Printing Group is not a new idea

The printer group, the former IPG, has been out of the wake of most of the more scandalous news in recent years. Its acquisitions have been smaller and more sensible (I am thinking of Indigo – in the same time frame as Compaq – followed by Scitex Vision and MacDermid, which greatly bolstered the company’s successful upward market expansion into commercial printing). Negative numbers, at least in year-to-year compares, started to show up during in the 2008/2009 recession, especially in consumer printing. Since then, the portfolio has been a mixed bag, with Whitman’s assertion that print is in a “secular decline” becoming a headline-maker earlier this year. (See "HP's Big Problem.").

But those of us who make a living following the industry see definite promise and bright spots in HP’s printing and imaging business, even beyond the aforementioned commercial business, where the company has found growth by replacing traditional analog-based methods with modern, digital printing. In the enterprise space particularly, HP has a line of spiffy new monochrome and color MFPs and some new and expanding solutions based around document management and workflow improvements, as the worlds of physical and electronic documents become ever more integrated. Ironically, these solutions, branded under the “Flow” moniker, along with the print-and-scan hardware, are based in large part on solutions from Autonomy, the now-much-maligned acquisition target of 2011.

I personally think the new company would be formidable. HP’s investments and capabilities in its printing and imaging business have continued over the years, and more “autonomy” (ouch – forgive me!) for the business could do nothing but good for the proposed spin-off’s highly qualified but currently beleaguered marketing and technical teams. And who knows – if they need a CEO, I know a recently unemployed, but highly experienced executive who goes by the initials “VJ!”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great discovering two mobile-print-related "little things"

In keeping with the Holiday Season and remembering to appreciate the "little things", I have two to report here. In addition, they give me a chance to whip up a Christmas Eve post and wish "Happy Holidays" to my readers!

Having a little extra "play time" during this season is always appreciated, and these days (for me anyway) that seems to include learning (or re-learning) some of the ins and outs associated with my fleet of mobile gadgets.
Yes, that's a "Print" button in the lower left part of this Mercury iOS Browser screen shot

Discovery #1 - One of the iOS apps which I have downloaded and enjoyed using is the free Mercury Browser by iLegendSoft. Positioned as "the fast Web browser for iOS", and its "rich feature set includes themes, downloading, printing, fullscreen browsing, file sharing, adblock, tabs, multi touch geatures, user agent switcher, private browsing, passcode lock, save page, Facebook/Twitter integration and a lot more." And yes, that's my emphasis, on PRINTING!

Discovery #2 - So how to test? I currently didn't have an AirPrint device on my home WiFi network, but guess what? My LaserJet P1102w becomes an AirPrint printer, via the current firmware upgrade. Thanks HP!!! (And thanks to Sam Costello, at and their Apple iPhone/iPad section, for his extensive November 2012 guide, "What Printers Are AirPrint Compatible?")

And with that, one more Happy Holidays shout-out to all my friends and readers!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Web-savvy Professors

I received a nice surprise via email today, from the CEO of Best Online Universities. In the email, Scott Hawksworth informed me that I had been named to his organization's list of 100 Web-Savvy Professors in 2012. And from the looks of the list, I am in very good company. So I say, "thanks".

While I devote most of this blog to my printing/imaging and more general tech interests, I am indulging myself with this from the higher ed portion of my world, but after all, that's pretty tech-driven as well. I have been fortunate enough to find myself on several lists like this since beginning the teaching part of my second career in 2006, and these higher-ed-oriented honors seem to be generally more prevalent than anything equivalent in the world of printer industry writer/analysts. Or maybe I just think that, because... ;>)=

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Kiva microloan - for a good cause

I just returned from a short but sweet sunbreak south of the border, and as a result of interacting with Trip Advisor (which came through some excellent advice on local attractions), I was offered the opportunity to direct a $25 micro-loan via Kiva. Well, given the choice of a number of worth local organizations (local to where I visited, that is) I really didn't have to go farther than #1 - an Internet Cafe needed financing for, among other things, printer supplies!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Berg Little Printer ships - as gadget creep sets in!

I was pleased, though a bit panicked, to get an email that the Berg Little Printer I had on order was preparing to ship. I've followed the progress of this Social  Media hard copy device since its announcement just about a year ago, through its social media honeymoon (see "Lessons from the Little Printer that went viral"), and shipment delays that are nearly inevitable in getting a brand new product (solution, more accurately) into the market.

Having the printer on order for some time, I was anxious to give it a try, but the panic I mentioned above came from a bit of "gadget fatigue" I've been suffering lately. To give these new toys a real try, they need to be integrated into one's life, which I've done with many of the recent iPhones, iPads, Kindles, a Nexus 7, and even my Nest thermostat! (Readers may remember I'd held off on the iPhone 5, until breaking down over Black Friday's refurb deal!).

So, delivery on the Little Printer was postponed - cancelled actually. The customer service was very competent and friendly, and I look forward to getting back on the Little Printer horse early in 2013!