5 Of HP’s Biggest Gaffes


It’s official: HP has now split into two companies. Here are some of the high profile mistakes the company has made along the way

Another week, another split. As of November 1, 76-year-old company HP is now two: HP Inc, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for one of technology’s giants, and one of Silicon Valley’s early founders. Despite success in the PC and printer market, HP hasn’t managed to escape its fair share of slipups. Here are five of the company’s biggest mistakes.

Mark Hurd resignation?

Oracle’s co-CEO Mark Hurd was an HP alumni, but stepped down from his position as CEO in 2010 following sexual harassment allegations. While Hurd was found not to have breached HP’s harassment policies, the investigation did unearth breaches of HP’s business conduct.

hpHurd walked straight into a job at Oracle as co-president and member of the board. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison likened the move to Apple’s firing of Steve Jobs in 1985, and Hurd has managed to line himself up as a possible future CEO of the company, with Oracle’s stock price doubling under his tenure.

Palm acquisition

HP splashed $1.2bn on mobile manufacturer Palm in 2010, in a bid to go head to head with Apple in the smartphone market.

hpBut just one year after the deal, HP stopped making webOS devices (the OS of Palm) and then the brand slowly laid down and gave up about a year after that. On January 15, 2015, HP shut down all services related to webOS, meaning whoever was left using Palm devices was no longer supported.

Illegal Iran sales

Despite US trade sanctions, in 1997, HP made $120m from printer and PC sales to Iran via a European subsidiary and a Dubai-based reseller. The sales went against Bill Clinton’s 1995 export sanctions and an investigation was started by the Security and Exchange Commission.

Autonomy write-down

On August 18 2011, HP announced it would be acquiring British software maker Autonomy for $10.6bn. The rest is history.

hpIn November 2012, HP announced that it was going to take an $8.8bn accounting charge after claiming “serious accounting improprieties” and “outright misrepresentations” at Autonomy.

Share prices plummeted, Autonomy boss Mike Lynch blamed HP. The FBI even got involved with the investigations alongside the Serious Fraud Office and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

A series of sues and counter sues then started between Mike Lynch and HP, with none of yet resolved following the January 2015 closure of the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation.

Spying on journalists

In 2006, HP’s chairwoman Patricia Dunn hired a team of ‘security experts’ to spy on board members and journalists to attempt to find the source of an information leak.

hpThose hired used a technique called pretexting (blagging) to pretend to be HP board members and journalists in order to get hold of phone records.

The events happened following the publication of information about HP’s long-term strategy to CNET in January 2006.

In 2007, Dunn’s criminal case brought against her by a California attorney was dismissed, and a number of the investigators hired to pretext served community service.

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