Autonomy: An Interesting Legal Document

August 4, 2021

Years ago I did some work for Autonomy. I have followed the dispute between Hewlett Packard and Autonomy. Enterprise search has long been an interest of mine, and Autonomy had emerged as one of the most visible and widely known vendors of search and retrieval systems.

Today (August 3, 2021) I read “Hard Drives at Autonomy Offices Were Destroyed the Same Month CEO Lynch Quit, Extradition Trial Was Told.” The write up contains information with which I was not familiar.

In the write up is a link to “In the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court The Government of the United States of America V Michael Richard Lynch Findings of Fact and Reasons.” That 62 page document contains a useful summary of the HP – Autonomy deal.

Several observations:

  1. Generating sustainable revenue for an enterprise search system and ancillary technology is difficult. This is an important fact for anyone engaged in search and retrieval.
  2. The actions summarized in the document provide a road map of what Autonomy did to maintain its story of success in what has been for decades a quite treacherous market niche. Search is particularly difficult, and vendors have found marketing a heck of a lot easier than delivering a system that meets users’ expectations.
  3. The information in the document suggests that the American judicial system may find this case a “bridge” between how corporate entities respond to the Wall Street demands for revenue and growth.

Like Fast Search & Transfer, executives found themselves making decisions which make search and retrieval a swamp. Flash forward to the present: Google search is shot through with adaptations to online advertising.

Perhaps the problem is that people expect software to deliver immediate, relevant results. Well, it is clear that most of the search and retrieval systems seeking sustainable revenues have learned that search can deliver good enough results. Good enough is not good enough, however.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2021


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