Hewlett Packard Autonomy: Law Firm Spat

October 20, 2014

I read “HP Shareholder Wants Scrutiny of Wachtell Role in Controversial Settlement.” Quite an interesting write up. The proper nouns alone make the article a stunner. Here’s a sampling:

  • Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom;
  • Proskauer Rose, Choate
  • Brown Rudnick
  • Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy
  • Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd
  • Greenfield & Goodman

The proper nouns point not to actual humans in most cases but to law firms.

In addition to the HP management decision to buy Autonomy for billions of dollars, the litigation is acting like a magnet for attorneys eager to help their clients and help blind justice remove the occlusion from her eyes.

Here’s a passage I noted:

“Wachtell inappropriately represented simultaneously both HP and the individual director and officer defendants,” the brief said, “and seemingly succumbed to the pressure to construct a settlement that unjustly benefited the individual defendants and provided, at best, nominal value to the company. Since the interests of the company were wholly incompatible with the goal of the individual defendants to eliminate their liability, Wachtell should not have provided such de facto dual representation.”

Would a law firm behave in this manner? I assume that the resolution of this matter will clarify the situation. I had the same silly notion about the settlement between i2 and Palantir. I am hopeful, however.

Stephen E Arnold, October 20, 2014

College Students Turn to Illegal Downloads for Textbook Materials

October 10, 2014

There is a well-known crisis in academic publishing. Most of the discussion centers on journal articles with many librarians and other thought leaders publicly denouncing the skyrocketing price increases. And while the serials crisis has been ongoing in some part for at least two decades, more recent attention has turned to inflated textbook prices.

This recent Reddit thread, “More students are illegally downloading college textbooks for free,’ laments rising costs and their effects on students. One disgruntled student sums up the issue:

“Yea, this is what happens when costs skyrocket and become generally un-affordable to students (who are already broke teenagers). You create an ‘underground’ market for people who can’t afford the legal price of the book. Publishers often create new versions every year, with little to no difference in content, but charge a few hundred dollars. And the people that write the book chapters (often professors with specialized research areas, or even post-doctoral students) don’t get royalties of the book.”

This thread was inspired by a Washington Post article, “More Students are Illegally Downloading Textbooks for Free.” And while piracy is never laudable, it does reveal weaknesses in systems, in the textbook system in this case. The students’ and concerned professors’ criticisms are sincere. The industry has responded by offering textbook rental plans and digital offerings in recent years. But anyone who crunches the numbers will see that those new means of access do not put a dent in the corporate greed at the center of the controversy, nor does it address the inequity of not paying professors and other writers for their work in assembling the material.

Emily Rae Aldridge, October 10, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google and Images: What Does Remove Mean?

October 4, 2014

I read “After Legal Threat, Google Says It Removed ‘Tens of Thousands’ of iCloud Hack Pics.” On the surface, the story is straightforward. A giant company gets a ringy dingy from attorneys. The giant company takes action. Legal eagles return to their nests.

However, a question zipped through my mind:

What does remove mean?

If one navigates to a metasearch engine like Devilfinder.com, the user can run queries. A query often generates results with a hot link to the Google cache. Have other services constructed versions of the Google index to satisfy certain types of queries? Are their third parties that have content in Web mirrors? Is content removed from those versions of content? Does “remove” mean from the Fancy Dan pointers to content or from the actual Google or other data structure? (See my write ups in Google Version 2.0 and The Digital Gutenberg to get a glimpse of how certain content can be deconstructed and stored in various Google data structures.)

Does remove mean a sweep of Google Images? Again are the objects themselves purged or are the pointers deleted.

Then I wondered what happens if Google suffers a catastrophic failure. Will the data and content objects be restored by a back up. Are those back ups purged?

I learned in the write up:

The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday published a letter to Google from Hollywood lawyers representing “over a dozen” of the celebrity victims of last month’s leak of nude photos. The lawyers accused Google of failing to expeditiously remove the photos as it is required to do under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They also demanded that Google remove the images from Blogger and YouTube as well as suspend or terminate any offending accounts. The lawyers claimed that four weeks after sending the first DMCA takedown notice relating to the images, and filing  over a dozen more since, the photos are still available on the Google sites.

What does “remove” mean?

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2014

Google May Show Pesky German Publishers Its Traffic Power

October 2, 2014

I read “Google Bows to Pressure, Removes News Snippets from German Search Results.” This is a “real” journalism story from the same folks that delivered the Dave Schubmehl sale of my information on Amazon.

Not surprisingly, I interpreted the friskiness of the German legal eagles in a way that is quite different from deal old Computerworld’s.

Computerworld states with its real news authoritarian tone:

In a move to minimize legal risks, Google has stopped showing news snippets and thumbnails for some well-known German news sites in search results.

My view is that Google will allow publishers to witness a shift in their referral traffic from Google. Changes in either presentation in a Google page or results list can have an immediate and direct impact on traffic.

In my view, the Google perceives some countries as “not getting it.” What looks like a retreat may not be a signal of Google cowardice. Too bad traffic reports for German media properties are not as popular as Miley Cyrus concert attendance.

If one is not in Google, one may be hard to find or may not exist to some of the digital crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014

Hewlett Packard Autonomy: A New 3D Printer Will Not Distract Litigation Scrutiny

September 28, 2014

I read “Hewlett Packard Autonomy Lawsuit Accord Questioned by Judge.” I marked this passage as an indication that HP’s announcement about a new 3D printer is not distracting US District Judge Charles Breyer. The write up states:

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, who earlier held up approval of the settlement over how much lawyers would be paid, Friday told company attorneys he’s concerned the deal would rob investors of the right to sue management over matters unrelated to the purchase.

Also, one big bucks outfit expressed some concern that certain aspects of HP management behavior may need some sunlight. Navigate to “CalPERS Says HP/Autonomy Shareholder Settlement Needs More Work.” I noted this passage in the article:

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer dated Tuesday, CalPERS said the judge should not approve the deal before both sides disclose the amount of fees plaintiff attorneys would recover. As it stands, the proposed civil settlement would leave shareholders “in the dark” about one of its key terms, CalPERS said in the letter.

Now about that 3D printer? “Market Brands HP’s 3D Printing Comments “Worrisome.” As long as a mid tier consultant explains HP’s 3D printer play in this way, HP will have to deal with the buzz about Autonomy:

In the end, HP will target the 3D printer opportunities that align with its technology and overall strategy. And as the company has said but which has been misunderstood by many people, HP will make technology announcements this fall only to make its 3D printers available later.

Does HP have control of its communications or will tweets from an outfit like IDC turn the tide? The September 22, 2014 tweets about HP are similar in the impact to the “In the end” statement above:

Dave Schubmehl @dschubmehl  ·  Sep 22  HP #IDOL and #Vertica power #HPHAVEn to deliver new insights from structured and unstructured information to impact marketing #HPEngage2014 Replied to 0 times

I quite like the zero times.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2014

HP, Bribes, and an Autonomy Flip

September 13, 2014

Try as I might, I cannot avoid learning about Hewlett Packard. For a $100 billion outfit, the flow of information is not overwhelmingly positive.

Earlier today, I worked through several stories. Perhaps you have absorbed their contents? If not, here’s my take.

First, several years ago I saw a document describing Autonomy’s business. The link to the “Autonomy Overview,” dated January 2011 is at http://bit.ly/1tNtn5H. The link to a second document is at http://bit.ly/1uMLmKg. (A happy quack to Oracle for keeping these useful documents online and available.) One of the most important factoids in the two documents is that there appeared with the Qatalyst Partners logo. Quatalyst is associated in my mind with Frank Quattrone, a person of interest for his financial wizardry.

The write up “Exclusive: HP Exploring Sale of Photo Sharing Service Snapfish – Source” may be off center. I did note this this statement in the write up:

Shutterfly hired Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners over the summer to find a buyer, and is expected wrap up its process in the next several weeks, people familiar with the matter have said previously.

Perhaps HP’s sale of Snapfish will demonstrate that Mr. Quattrone will be bested in this minor joust. HP’s encounter with Mr. Quattrone’s analysis of Autonomy seems to have dazzled the printer ink company to some degree.

Second, “HP Pleads Guilty to Bribery and Is Fined $108” asserts that HP fought the law and the law won. I learned:

In a statement, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said HP Russia admitted that its executives paid bribes to officials of the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation to win a large technology contract in 1999, and continued making illegal payments for more than a decade. “[HP] subsidiaries, co-conspirators or intermediaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash,” said DoJ deputy assistant attorney general Bruce Schwartz.

Fascinating when I put this business approach in the context of HP’s actions related to Autonomy.

Third, I read “Former Autonomy Execs Turning to Unusual Strategy in Fight with Hewlett-Packard.” The article reports that Autonomy asserts that “HP grossly overvalued their firm.” That makes sense to me. HP appears to have been bitten by the Big Data, predictive analytics and search bug. Like Ebola, the infection can lead to some challenging problems.

Also, I read “HP: We Will Eradicate the Color Grey from Our Market.” HP seems to have some folks who are selling HP products around the formal partner procedures. The article reports:

Alex Tatham, MD at HP distributor Westcoast, said he is “delighted” that HP is tackling a market that has the potential to suck profits from the authorised channel. “All vendors need to police the grey market; it is their responsibility to create as level a playing field as possible for resellers,” he told us. Some in the industry will say that the grey market is, at least, partly fuelled by the vendors themselves, whether it be leaky supply chains or the temptation to sell to brokers to make kit disappear amid slow sales.

Net net: HP is a company able to capture headlines. I wonder if Kim Kardashian’s media impact has inspired the $100 billion company?

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2014

Google and Customer Support

September 12, 2014

I don’t expect anything from an outfit providing customer support. I don’t expect anything from search vendors with customer support systems. The name of the game is no costs. To eliminate costs, customer support operations have some options.

  1. Ignore the inquiries. I recall that a member of my family used this method for a large search system. He figured that the time required to handle inquiries would bankrupt the company. Ergo: Hit delete.
  2. Buy an automated system and let it run. This usually requires paying a vendor to set up the system and “maintain” it. This works a bit like winning on a digital slot machine.
  3. Try to perform customer support. Move the operation to some lower cost location and deal with the revolving door that leads to 20 to 50 percent turnover.

Many companies use these options in combination.

According to Computerworld (yep, it seems to still be in business unlike other units of IDG’s empire), Google has to shift from option one.

“German Court Requires Google to Stop Ignoring Customer Emails” reports:

Google users who email the address “support-de@google.com” receive an automatic reply notifying the emailer that Google will neither read nor reply due to the large number of requests sent to the address. After that sentence, the automatic reply directs Google users to various online self-help guides and contact forms. This form of communication is incompatible with the German Telemedia Act, which says that companies must provide a way to ensure fast electronic communications with them, the VZBV had argued. The organization described Google’s support address as a black box in which messages disappear into a void. The court agreed with the VZBV and ruled that an automatically generated email does not meet the requirements of the law.

There you go. Google may shift to another option. Perhaps a search engine vendor will land the contract. Will the German court like that approach? I will wait with German pointer like fixation.

Stephen E Arnold, September 12, 2014

Note that IDC is the outfit that sold my content on Amazon without my permission. The “expert” who is surfing on my name is Dave Schubmehl. The German court does not seem to pay much attention to this, however.

Another Weekend, More HP Autonomy Mud Slinging

September 6, 2014

I read “HP Alleges Autonomy Email Warning of Falling Revenues and ‘Imaginary Deals’ Shows Fraud.”

HP released an email from Autonomy’s CFO to Autonomy’s president. It would be helpful to have a larger number of emails and some context for a message sent from a mobile phone.

According to the write up:

HP claims the disclosure supports its allegations of fraud against Dr Lynch, who was then chief executive of Autonomy. It has today accused him in a Californian court of lying “to an extraordinary extent” about the performance of his company during the due diligence process that led to its $11.7bn (£7.1bn) acquisition.

If Autonomy were in such bad shape, how did HP miss these signals?

HP is going to keep Autonomy in the center of its content marketing campaign. The charges and counter charges underscore the risks associated with search and content processing software.

Stephen E Arnold, September 6, 2014

HP Sues Autonomy…Again

August 27, 2014

We thought that HP and Autonomy had settled their differences and were moving towards building new products, but they are not. ZDNet says that “HP To Sue Former Autonomy CFP Over Bungled Acquisition Settlement.” What is HP upset about now when it comes to Autonomy? It turns out that former Autonomy chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain did not want to pony up the money HP was owed after its three lawsuits with HP were settled. The lawsuits were supposed to end the quarrels.

After HP bought Autonomy, they discovered the company was than truthful about its star product line. It was purchased for $11.7 billion, but HP had to write down $8.8 billion when they discovered the fib. Autonomy still does not want to pay for the damages and Hussain is avoiding the settlement.

“In a court filing on Monday, HP said that it was ‘ludicrous’ that he should be “permitted to intervene and challenge the substance of a settlement designed to protect the interests of the company he defrauded,” according to the Reuters news agency. But Hussain said that should a judge approve the settlement, HP would be able to ‘forever bury from disclosure the real reason for its 2012 write-down of Autonomy.’”

Here is to hoping the arguments settle soon, because it is really ruining the concept of enterprise search. Think about it, if Autonomy’s enterprise search products did not work as advertised, what is the value of other companies?

Whitney Grace, August 27, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

HP Autonomy: A Twist?

August 26, 2014

I read “U.S. Judge Casts Doubt on HP-Shareholder Settlement in Autonomy Lawsuit.” The write up seems to point to another chapter in the Hewlett Packard Autonomy litigation. If the article is spot on, I learned:

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the settlement contained a “potentially fatal” provision, under which HP would hire shareholder attorneys to pursue claims against ex-Autonomy executives. He said that provision may prevent his approving the deal.

Assume this is correct. HP would have to go back to the drawing board with regard to a shareholder allegation about the deal. Instead of putting Autonomy on the hot seat, HP may have to deal with shareholders who see HP management as having some flaws.

Instead of reading about Mike Lynch, we would be getting some insight into what the HP board and folks like Meg Whitman were thinking about search and content processing.

My view is that enterprise information retrieval is shadowed by a somewhat gray cloud. If search is the Big Thing, the value of these systems should be evident. Instead we learn that search is a contentious issue. I am curious about the reasoning HP used to justify buying an enterprise search and content processing system that was 15 years young? Once that decision was made, what MBA magic was at work to produce the purchase price? What was Meg Whitman’s contribution to this deal when it took place?

Do other search vendors benefit from the notoriety of this search deal? My hunch is that the flailing many search vendors’ marketing demonstrates is that search is not an Emmy winning solution.

Search is easy to misunderstand and difficult to covert into a money machine. The HP Autonomy matter is a living, breathing case study of that does call attention to the challenges search presents. For those seeking cases studies about search, the HP Autonomy matter is a headliner.

The matter is a reminder that search which everyone thinks he or she understands may not be quite so simple.

Stephen E Arnold, August 26, 2014

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