The electric rail that HP touched

If you walk along the BART tracks (Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Francisco’s version of mass transit electric-driven trains) you’ll see a big fence, covered with barbed wire, along with lots of signs that make it clear that if you cross the fence you’ll die. Why?

The electric rail.

It’s not lost on me that when I worked at Microsoft there were a few issues that people would tell me not to touch cause they’d cause trouble for me. How did that get communicated to me? “That’s an electric rail.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that electric rail metaphor today and why I am giving HP such harsh treatment. Privacy is an electric rail.

Let me explain. Big companies rely on our private data to make money. Verizon knows where and when I use my cell phone so it can charge me. At Microsoft if you attended the PDC you had to put your name and address and credit card number into the system so we could charge you and get you your ticket. At health care organizations they know even more detailed private information. And so on and so forth. Big companies have a lot of our data locked up in their data centers.

So, why did I care that HP’s board of directors pushed the boundary of where private information could be used? Because private data must be held sacrosanct. Private data is an electric rail. Use it properly and it will power your business. Use it improperly and you should get fired. There’s no other way to put it. It should be that clear. It IS an electric rail.

This is why I’m giving HP’s board of directors such a hard time (and will continue to do so). They touched the electric rail. You just can’t do that without severe consequences.

Note: the electric rail doesn’t care if you have a reason to touch it. You touch it, you pay severe consequences. Why does that need to be true? So no other company thinks of touching it in the future. 

HP has a major ethical problem, Day 5

Newsweek has this as its cover story in the September 18th issue: Scandal at HP: The Boss Who Spied On Her Board. A thorough look at the events that led up to where we are. I don’t see anything that makes me want to turn back, even a little bit, from my point that Dunn should be done. Day 5 will be known as “the emergency board meeting.” Boy, wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in that one! Maybe the guy who leaks from board meetings could give me a call and tell me what happened.

Amazon next Google? Maybe not…

A couple of days ago I said that Amazon might be the fearsome Microsoft killer we were expecting Google to be. But after reading the latest reviews of Amazon’s new Unboxed, I should take that back.

Which shows that it isn’t enough to be first. You also have to have the goods. It also shows that the first round of hype will get wiped out in days by a deeper look (yes, I’m sorry I hyped everyone up here).

Here’s the reviews that caught my eye:

Simon Phipps: “Unbox Unusable.”
Tom Merritt, on CNET: “My Fight with Amazon Unbox.”
Uninnovate: “Amazon Spends Over a Year Developing Movie Download Service Then Shackles It With Absurd Restrictions.”