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A new war between Sun and HP?

This time, the two computer companies are not fighting for market share, but about a wooden sculpture of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the HP founders. As wrote ‘The Register’ in Sun buys Hewlett and Packard, HP refused to put a Hewlett and Packard sculpture in its lobby. So Sun decided to buy the sculpture for over $6,000 and to show it in a variety of places, including its own headquarters. Why am I telling you this? It’s because Sun and HP executives are now fighting on their blogs. And this is where it becomes funny. But read more…

First, here are the facts as reported by the Register.

In a crafty public relations stunt, Sun has acquired a wooden sculpture of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard and decided to send the object on the road to find HP’s “sense of humor.” A local artist had offered the Hewlett and Packard sculpture, which is part of a larger collection, to HP corporate, but the company passed. So, Sun stepped in with $6,000 and bought the Silicon Valley legends.

Hewlett, Packard and SchwartzAnd Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and President of Sun Microsystems Inc., decided to tell his side of the story on his blog in Acquiring Hewlett Packard’s Legacy.

When presented with the opportunity to purchase the likeness of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, it having made the trek from the printer ink section of a San Jose Office Depot, our friends at HP elected not to honor their founders. So out of respect for HP’s legacy, the fine folks in Sun’s marketing team decided to acquire the artwork. Bill and Dave are absolute legends, held in the deepest respect by all of us at Sun. We were honored at the opportunity. So we bought them, and their garage, for $6,000.

As less as a year ago, HP would have probably not replied to what can be seen as a provocation. Do you remember when Schwartz, at the time number 2 at Sun, attacked HP about the future disappearance of HP-UX? Here is what I wrote in May 2005 about this fight.

In August 2004, when Jonathan Schwartz, chairman of Sun Microsystems, wrote in a blog entry that HP-UX was a “dying” operating system, HP replied with a letter of its legal department asking Sun to remove the blog entry. Of course, Sun rejected the request. But in terms of strategies of communication, it was something like a fight between tools from the 19th and the 21st centuries.

But in 2006, things have really changed. And Eric Kintz, who has the official title of “Vice President Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence” at HP, decided to reply to Schwartz on his own blog in “Something new under the Sun.” Here are some excerpts of what he wrote.

As reported on the SFGate blog, it’s true, we were asked if we could store or display the Bill and Dave figures in our lobby and declined. Sun went so far as to purchase them for $6,000 and plant them in front of their sign.

We strongly value our humble beginnings and the vision of our innovative founders. You can find portraits of Bill and Dave in our lobby; we retained their offices in the condition they were in when they left them and keep them open to everyone here at HP (in the middle of the labs). We also embarked in the last years on a significant effort to preserve the garage on Addison Avenue, where it all began for us and for Silicon Valley. I never met Bill or Dave, but I bet neither of them would have approved paying thousands for representations of themselves.

I don’t know what you think, but personally, I think it’s a healthy debate which can only benefit consumers — if other industries follow the road built by these executives at these well-known technology companies.

But what are your thoughts? Do you think that this ‘fight’ between executives of such large companies is interesting or just ‘childish’? Please send me your thoughts.

Sources: Ashlee Vance, The Register, August 17, 2006; and various blogs

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2 Responses to “A new war between Sun and HP?”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I think it’s childish…. but at the same time funny.

    Not as destructive as some of the other things that have been done in the past.

  2. Alex Cochran Says:

    I love seeing Sun get their energy and spirit back - as an HP customer, it feels like HP’s more focused on gutting R&D to free up money for acquisitions. My sense is Sun knows they need to generate awareness within the HP installed base, but politely and sensitively - vs. Sun’s history. I like what they’re doing… and it’s a hilarious stunt.

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Roland Piquepaille
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