When the speaker lineup for last week’s AlwaysOn “OnDemand 2013”conference was announced several weeks ago and Ray Lane’s name was on the list, there was some skepticism among Silicon Valley observers about whether he would show up. Let’s face it: Lane is on the kind of bad roll of which true legends are made.
First, after many months of speakers at other conferences openly talking about the Hewlett-Packard board being “the worst in corporate history,” Lane finally stepped down as chairman in April after a lukewarm vote of support by shareholders. Then, Fisker Automotive, which had been backed by Lane and the venture group Kleiner Perkins, stopped making new cars, cut their staff by 75 percent, and hired a bankruptcy advisor. Earlier this month, Lane was named in a class action lawsuit over HP’s acquisition of Autonomy, amid speculation that the company grossly overpaid for the software firm, wiping out more than $3 billion from HP’s market value in one day.
Yet last Tuesday afternoon, in a conference room at HP’s corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, there was Lane on stage with AlwaysOn’s Tony Perkins, chatting amiably away. Just two guys talking tech.
Not surprisingly, Lane had plenty to say about “hybrid clouds” and SAS products, while carefully avoiding any comment about the perpetual migraine that has become his corporate life. He did concede that “there’s certainly been periods of time when we lost our way in terms of focus” at HP. And, in response to some casual remarks by Perkins near the end, Lane admitted that “I am working harder now than when I was 35.” Presumably, when shareholders show you the door at one very large high tech company, another firm crashes in spectacular failure, and you are the chief subject in a massive lawsuit, it’s not hard to work up a real sweat.
In other news from around Silicon Valley:
India Entrepreneurs Gather – The TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Conference in Santa Clara on May 17 and 18 brought out some big names who were happy to share their insights at the well-attended event. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner talked about his company’s recent success in becoming “the definitive professional publishing platform.” Rayid Ghani, the Chief Scientist for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, spoke about his use of open source technology to figure out which voters were “persuadable.” Said Ghani, “Everything we did was about making predictions at an individual level.”
And Satya Nadella, President of the Server Business for Microsoft, proclaimed that “we’d rather die than become irrelevant.” The software giant’s new Xbox One, which has been getting generally positive reviews, may postpone graveside rites for the struggling company for a while.
Google Glass Still Making Waves – A few weeks ago, this column published comments from industry observers about the impact of the “wearable computer” Google glasses on the casino industry. Casinos have made it clear they will ban the Glass wearers from gambling venues entirely. Since then, the list of locations where Glass wearers are not welcome has expanded to include some cinemas, parks, cafes and even strip clubs.
And earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that there is a “hidden” feature in Google Glass that lets wearers snap a photo just by blinking one eye. The way things are going, the only place where Google Glass will be fully accepted may be Google itself.