The Digital World has opened doors that society didn’t even know existed a mere 50 years ago, and companies like Hewlett Packard are the ones with the keys. As a company that defines 21st century innovation and success, it’s hard to believe just how deep and far reaching the history of Hewlett Packard runs.
Fostering Global Progress
Hewlett Packard, known colloquially as HP, manufactures software and other computer-related technologies and services. From laptops to 3D Printers, there’s nothing within the realm of technology from which this company shies away. Though this modern incarnation of HP is known for their work in computers, the brand has seen more than one renaissance and revision in terms of their products.
They operate within the tech space with the intention of improving every life, in every community, through the technology they create. HP espouses their commitment to innovation as a result of the fact that humans never stop moving, never stop progressing, and so neither can a company that claims to be wholly up-to-date.
Not only does HP try to revolutionize modern workspaces to increase accessibility, challenge the degree of separation between art and audience, and even minimize the spread of bacteria, but they also throw their weight behind budding industries, like artificial intelligence and immersive experiences.
Essentially, HP aims to solve problems that already exist, while at the same time exploring needs that have not yet even fully emerged, allowing them to live up to their reputation for innovation in a very material way. The coming years may well house the release of some of HP’s most exciting technologies yet.
Hewlett Packard was founded in 1939, when two electrical engineering Stanford graduates began manufacturing sophisticated instruments like audio oscillators, which Walt Disney used to produce one of their first major films, Fantasia, in 1940. This company marked the first in a long line of startups helmed by Stanford grads that would put down roots nearby. This area eventually became known as Silicon Valley, the now infamous home of some of the country’s (and the world’s) largest and most influential companies.
During World War II, Hewlett Packard was tapped to create counter-radar technology and artillery shell fuses for the American military. Following the war, Hewlett Packard jumped right back into advancing technology, like a high-speed frequency counter that could be used to set frequencies for FM radio and television broadcast stations, a rapidly growing market in the mid-century.
In the 1960s, after it had gone public, Hewlett Packard moved into the space of medical equipment. This move proved successful largely because HP had acquired another company that already operated within the medical devices industry. The next decade, the company unveiled the first desktop and pocket-sized calculators, a precursor to its eventual charge into the more advanced technology industry.
The first HP computer was actually developed in 1966 as a means for managing their own measurement devices. Later, Steve Wozniack (Apple co-founder) offered Hewlett Packard his prototype for a personal computer when he was an intern for the company in 1976, but they declined.
Of course, Wozniack went on to work with his friend Steve Jobs on a project of their own just a few years later. In this way, Apple’s success can be attributed to HP in some small measure, because had they bought Wozniack’s prototype, Apple would never have taken root as early as it did.
All the same, they introduced the first HP personal computer in 1980, but their first two attempts to break into the market were failures. IBM had become the industry standard, and even when HP created an IBM-compatible device, it failed to gain traction with market share. Their printers, however, gained great success in the 1980s. The ‘90s finally brought HP its first taste of success in the PC industry when they began manufacturing workstation items at lower prices.
Since then, Hewlett Packard has acquired a number of other technology companies, made brief forays into smartphones and tablets, and even split the company into two separate halves: one that focuses on personal electronics, and one that focuses on assisting businesses.
As a company that has dabbled in almost every field imaginable related to technology, it only makes sense that they are now focused on the next wave of progress, dedicating effort and research to staying on top of the trends.
21st Century Tech Rivals
Hewlett Packard has more than its fair share of competition in the tech space on whole, but the brands whose offerings most closely mirror HP’s are Dell, Lenovo, IBM, and Apple. Being the global goliath that it is, it’s almost unfair to compare Apple to any company as it’s truly in a league of its own. Likewise, Lenovo is significantly smaller than the other competitors, so it does not pose a significant threat.
Between HP, Dell, and IBM, the latter is the largest by far. However, HP still boasts a valuation of nearly $30 billion; IBM is older by more than 20 years, so HP has long struggled to keep up with them. What’s more, IBM’s early success in the PC industry contributed greatly to HP’s floundering in the same space early on.
All of this is not to say the Hewlett Packard is David to IBM’s Goliath. In fact, both companies currently rest in the shadow of larger tech giants, but in terms of closer calls, IBM bests HP. Still, HP shows signs of gaining on IBM’s long-held lead in recent years, and that trend is likely to continue if HP remains committed to exploring new technology.
In October 2018, HP posted profits just $3.4 billion less than IBM’s; although this gap is still large, it’s significantly smaller than the nearly $9 billion disparity between the two companies’ profits just three years earlier.
All of this speaks to the fact that, although HP has not caught up with IBM just yet, they’re a company on the rise, and their time may be coming. For now, though, they’re miles away from pulling ahead of the competition; creating something truly revolutionary seems the only way that HP has any hope of topping the tech charts.
Standing Out in A Sea of Options
HP has their work cut out for them when it comes to visibility. Despite being a well-established and profitable company, it’s difficult to stake a claim in the public consciousness when grappling with so many tech giants. What’s more, companies like Apple worked hard to cultivate a brand personality and name recognition through creative advertising in the early years of the 21st century, so HP was left trying to play catch up without looking like an imitation.
One of the ways that HP kept up appearances during the mid-2000s when tech was exploding was through partnerships with celebrities. Mark Cuban, Jay-Z, and Gwen Stefani were just a few of the major stars to take part in a series of stylized commercials that emphasized the lifestyle benefits of using an HP computer and their associated products. These ads featured graphics rather than actual products for the most part, and the commentary from celebs really ran the show.
Since then, HP has moved into a more accessible realm, offering all sorts of how-to videos, slice of life stories involving their products, and clips featuring specifications of new products. This method of visibility speaks to an understanding that in order to draw in a large customer base, a company must establish themselves as a resource and authority within their industry.
Possibly born out of this same understanding are HP’s booths in stores like Best Buy, where dedicated employees mann HP’s stations, assisting customers with any questions and demonstrations. These employees are known as brand ambassadors, since their sole purpose is to help consumers navigate the HP brand specifically, and it’s a system that has been similarly adopted by other tech brands.
Spying Is Friendly Fire
In 2005, HP executives had been dealing with mounting frustration over a series of boardroom leaks. Without anything but suspicion recommending who the leak might be, the company hired a private investigator to spy on its own directors, as well as journalists. In the process of the investigation, unethical practices were employed to gain access to phone records, and the private investigator was eventually sentenced to a small amount of jail time.
When the entire scandal broke in 2006, the media was outraged at HP’s tactics, and the story received a great deal of coverage. Much to the chagrin of many who were familiar with the case, all criminal proceedings against HP employees were dropped, and the private investigator was the only person to receive more than a slap on the wrist.
The head of the board, who was technically responsible for the entire investigation called it an embarrassment and plead ignorance. The entire debacle belied a level of confusion and mismanagement within the corporation, something that could have been guessed by their quick succession of CEOs in the same time period.
Hewlett Packard executives called the entire ordeal an ‘ethical wakeup call’ which prompted the company to put in place more safeguards against misconduct, like screening programs of investigative agencies.
Just a few years later, though, former HP CEO Mark Hurd resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, calling into question yet again the company culture surrounding ethical issues.
Now, HP supposedly places much greater emphasis on ethics than it ever did in the past, and although many remember these scandals as a black mark on HP’s permanent record, the company does not seem to have suffered lasting financial repercussions.
Perhaps it is a testament to the power of the 24-hour news cycle, but HP’s past transgressions seem largely forgotten now, as they continue to move ahead in rankings.
Still Climbing The Ladder
80 years after it was first founded, HP maintains as much relevance as ever, if not more. The company has seen periods of ebb and flow to be sure, but they seem to be enjoying a few years of stable incline, and their future is looking more and more certain.
HP’s important standing is evidenced by rankings like its presence on the Forbes Most Valuable Brands list for 2019, where it sits at number 52. It also ranks at 279th on Forbes’ Global 2000, a testament to the fact that this American-born company has grown up and made its international mark. HP has graced many other of Forbes’ superlative lists in recent years as well, for things like being a hospitable company to female employees and new grads.
Hewlett Packard is one of many tech companies named to the most valuable brands list. In fact, tech dominates the top of the list: the top 5 brands are all technology related. Though HP doesn’t rate quite that highly, they’re still holding their own, posting a 1% increase in brand value over 2018.
On Fortune’s Global 500, HP comes in at number 173. This is an improvement of 17 spots over the previous year, where it ranked at 190. Their profit jumped by 110% between the two years, likely the largest contributing factor to the rank increase. Perhaps even more telling than the rank improvement is the fact that HP has now spent 25 years on the list.
Unlike many tech companies that are still in their fledgling phases, HP has demonstrated its ability to progress and evolve with the times, as it was around long before the technological renaissance that started for consumers in the 1980s.
HP may not dominate today’s lists of success by every metric, but it certainly holds a special place in both history and the future for the contributions it has already made to technology, and the ones it is still synthesizing.