Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Science Fiction? Conspiracy theory? – You Decide

Science Fiction? Conspiracy theory? – You Decide
By: Alon Cohen

I will start and explain why I do not buy HP products for 10 years now. This is a story I have been telling every HP employee I have met at every trade show and every friend who asked me about HP that was willing to listen.
Maybe 10 years ago I bought an all in one HP printer. I really liked HP from my days working at an R&D lab during the eighties, where every really good measurement equipment was either Tektronics or HP. I specifically liked the HP200 serious of PC computers that were way ahead of their time and superior in all aspect (but the cost) to the flimsy PCs XT that came out from IBM and looked like crap back in 1986-1987. So naturally, when I came to staples around 2000 and saw the brand new HP printers I still carried with me that warm fuzzy feeling I had from the old HP days about those products.
Since I needed two printers, one for home and one the office, I thought to myself why not buy the same one? This way I will install the driver once on my laptop and be done with it. In theory a great idea, practically I discovered that HP is not HP anymore and that printer drivers, is not their forte to say the least. But you know what, this is not the point.
The point is that after a year, just a week or two after the warranty expired, both printers started to display a similar error message on the screen. Normally a person who buys one would not suspect a foul play, however when one printer did thousands of pages at the office and the other one did only few pages sitting idle at home, one starts to suspect. My suspicion was that HP allegedly inserted a time bomb in the printer software to make it looks like it is dead forcing consumers to buy new printers.

To be honest, I have no proof of that but I was unable to shake that feeling off over the years, specifically with all the other bad smell coming out of that company.

It did not end there, to add a sin to the crime, when I called HP's customer support they made me pay for the call and forced me to buy another cartridge saying the new spare one I had expired. Well clearly, it did not, but if you can squeeze few more bucks from a sucker why not.

At some point, the HP customer support agent felt he was on a roll, one sucker customer two bad printers, so he took it to the next step saying: “What if I will get you the newest fancy printer for only $200”. Well I was an idiot for buying the first time but hey I am not that bad. And so I said, “let me get back to you on that”.

The next day, I went to the store to compare prices and, lo and behold, it is cheaper at the store! This sealed the deal from my point of view. I have not touched HP ever again.

Was I correct about this alleged selling methodology? You will be the judge of that. However moving to now, I came across this WSJ article about how HP decided to commit suicide and how this whole move is so unclear to everyone in the industry and... bang, it all became clear to me.

I wouldn't be surprised if few years from now, it will come out, that competitors were able to prove what HP did use time bombs and gave HP’s board and management an ultimatum to stay out of the PC / Home Printers / Tablets space or face class action law suits with deep personal consequences. I am not sure how deep you are into conspiracy theories, but this explanation works for me, and personally, I would like to see them out of the game because of that incident.

Who knows, maybe Agilent who span off, back in the days, and took HP’s good measurement products, can re-take the HP name and revive it to glory once again.