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HP Accused of Spying on Dell 82

Posted by Zonk
from the only-surprising-in-that-we're-hearing-about-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An ex-HP exec claims he was instructed by the company's management to spy on Dell's printer business plans. Karl Kamb, previously HP's vice president of business development and strategy, was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by HP in 2005, after he allegedly began his own company before leaving HP. Kamb, who has denied any wrongdoing, filed a countersuit in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas claiming he was fired because of shading dealings involved in the corporate espionage. From the article: 'As a member of HP's imaging and printing group's "competitive intelligence team", Kamb said he was in a position to know that HP senior executives signed off on a plan to pay [Former Dell Japan President Katsumi] Iizuka to obtain details of what Dell was up to. Iizuka turned over the information to Kamb and he passed it along to HP, Kamb claimed.'"
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HP Accused of Spying on Dell

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  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:27PM (#17753204) Homepage Journal

    ...at least, if they are successful. The purpose of a bureaucracy is to self-perpetuate, like any organism. It is powered by the enlightened self-interest of the employees within it. Every bureaucracy, if left unchecked, will seek to expand itself. Individuals within it may have morality but the organism as a whole does not.

    To see these organizations spying is not a shock. If you let them continue to grow they will each run up against each other and start trying to find ways to subsume the others. It doesn't really matter to the consumer since each one is pretty much the sum of its parts...

    • Every bureaucracy, if left unchecked, will seek to expand itself. Individuals within it may have morality but the organism as a whole does not.

      This is interesting. I can't help but think of governments, which are the ultimate in large bureaucracies. If success is a criteria for an organization to begin exhibiting "immoral" attributes, then is the key to prevent your government from acting immorally to make sure your government is not "successful"? And if that is the case, how does one define success for a

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:51PM (#17753680) Homepage Journal
        This is interesting. I can't help but think of governments, which are the ultimate in large bureaucracies.

        That is of course precisely what I intended to suggest. Spying is something every government does every day.

        If success is a criteria for an organization to begin exhibiting "immoral" attributes, then is the key to prevent your government from acting immorally to make sure your government is not "successful"? And if that is the case, how does one define success for a government?

        If you define success for the organization itself - not that which it serves, but simply that which is good for the entity - then it can only be through longevity, proliferation, and security.

        If one uses the usual definition of a successful government, that would probably mean a happy (safe, well-cared for, healthy), thriving populace. But by your theory then, that leads to an immoral government, and so it is better in the long run if your government is not successful, and your people are unhappy.

        Well there's [at least] two conclusions you could quickly and yet reasonably come to. One is that a government actually capable of serving its citizens wouldn't be large because the needs of the people do not include large government. The Federal Government of the USA is the largest employer in the nation, with Wal-Mart in the #2 spot. Does this really serve the people?

        The other is that yes, the very existence of government leads to an immoral government over time, simply because it is a bureaucracy, and that's what bureaucracies do. They consolidate and preserve power.

        Besides other possible conclusions there's a third view that lies somewhere in between; government will proliferate but if you force it to stay smaller then it more accurately serves the will of the people. In cases where the public does not agree on a course of action, and no one is being harmed, the government should do nothing. This is of course not how the system has worked over time. Law seeks to erase ambiguities but life is about them in a very real way and in any case is made up of them. Very few things are black and white in this world (newspapers stand out as a glaring exception. thanks, I'll be here all week.)

        But unhappy people usually revolt and overturn the government, with the hope of installing a government that will make them happy (thereby restarting the cycle).

        The problem is that not enough limits are placed on government. The constitution didn't explicitly say that anything not in the document can be shoved straight up your ass. Or that no amendment shall be passed which limits your rights. Only one amendment like that has ever been passed so far; prohibition. As we know, it was repealed. But there are occasionally calls for others and sooner or later one of them will pass.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          The other is that yes, the very existence of government leads to an immoral government over time, simply because it is a bureaucracy, and that's what bureaucracies do. They consolidate and preserve power.

          And this is exactly why the forefathers included the 2nd Amendment. The explicit purpose of keeping "a well regulated militia" and preserving "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" was to keep the government in check with the threat of being overthrown by the people should the need arise. Thomas
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:48PM (#17753638)
      You're confusing expansion of a company into ever increasing markets with illegal behaviour. All businesses will try to expand to whatever capacity they can sustain. But that doesn't mean it's inevidible they'll engage in illegal behaviour like is alleged here.

      I don't expect large companies to behave ethically (small companies maybe). They'll do whatever they like without regard to anyone else. I do expect companies to behave within the bounds of the law. They often don't of course, but my point is that illegal behaviour isn't a given for a company.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You're confusing expansion of a company into ever increasing markets with illegal behaviour. All businesses will try to expand to whatever capacity they can sustain. But that doesn't mean it's inevidible they'll engage in illegal behaviour like is alleged here.

        I disagree. As your organization grows larger, even if there is morality at the top, it can't peter down all the way to the bottom. Some of the individuals lower down the tree will do things to help them move upwards.

        I do expect companies to behave

    • Right. Anyone who's had training or coursework in group dynamics (like me), can tell you that this is a form of groupthink. It's actually not unlike the Nazis in Germany or similar acts conducted at Andersonville during the American Civil War. And of course, when called on it, everyone was just following orders. But, the basic tendancy in the HP spying situation and these other two examples are essentially the same type of groupthink.

      Psychologists actually deem this to be a disorder and have other names f
  • I remember when... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hackstraw (262471) * on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:27PM (#17753218)

    HP actually _made_ excellent printers.

    Now, HP spys on its customers and competeters printer habits.

    Their stock value should reflect this better.

    • by petabyte (238821)
      And Dell no less. I have a Dell inkjet printer (lexmark with another name on it) still unopened in its box from when it came as part of a bundle deal with my laptop this Christmas. I've asked friends and family and no one wants to bother with it.

      I ended up buying a Samsung laser of all things with Christmas bestbuy giftcards as I wanted a laser, it works with linux and was only $80. The HP sitting next to it wasn't as sturdy.
    • HP's workgroup class printers (4xxx series) are pretty darn good. We have 3 4000(t)n I got in 1998, a 4050n I got in 1999 and a 4300n bought in that are rock solid. Just put new maintenance parts like pickup rollers every 100K pages or so, fusers every 200K pages and they keep going ... very few jams, etc. Of course these are in the $2000 range (which is cheaper than the original $2500 price tag of the laserjet III). We replaced laserjet III and laserjet 4 printers with those...the III started jamming a
      • by lukas84 (912874)
        We've replaced an IBM InfoPrint 1220 (a Lexmark rebadged) with a Color LaserJet 4700dtn about a year ago.

        The printer has been solid, the drivers are WAY better than the IBM/Lexmark stuff. We're an IBM BP, so i mostly have to deal with IBM/Lexmark printers, and i prefer HP printers. Everything from the WebUI, to the drivers is better, offers more options, causes less problems, and the service is better too.

        Of course, all desk printers i've ever encountered suck. That's why you buy workgroup printers.
    • by SeaFox (739806)
      Not only that, they were spying on Dell.

      Dell doesn't make printers! They simply rebrand Lexmark printers, and Lexmark printers suck. Why would HP want to emulate such crappy hardware?
  • This is depressing. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:30PM (#17753262) Journal
    The HP we all remember from the 1970's is long gone. I'd say that hiring Carly wan't the cause, it was a symptom of the company losing its way.

    -jcr

    • by Dogtanian (588974)
      HP have lost their soul now that they've been taken over by Heinz and moved their brown sauce production to the Netherlands. [bbc.co.uk]

      What?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      I'd say that hiring Carly wan't the cause, it was a symptom of the company losing its way.

      On the other hand, hiring Carly was exactly opposed to what needed to be done.

      It may not have caused HP to slide into the toilet, but I'm pretty sure the hand on the lever was attached to one C. Fiorina.


      • On the other hand, hiring Carly was exactly opposed to what needed to be done.
        It may not have caused HP to slide into the toilet, but I'm pretty sure the hand on the lever was attached to one C. Fiorina.

        The lever handler only changed when it got to Hurd. Now if they'd merge with NCR and drop the HP name, there might be some way to save both in one shot. Heck, it'd even have a chance at revitalizing the Indecision State [wikipedia.org] of the Midwest.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Manchot (847225)
      I'd say that HP sealed their fate when they spun off Agilent [wikipedia.org] in 1999. Agilent does what HP was originally founded to do: to actually perform R&D, and to make test equipment that is widely used in R&D. It's no coincidence that a large majority of the insanely expensive equipment used in my electrical engineering department is Agilent- or HP-made. They went from being a company that actually does interesting things to being a company that manufactures commodities. Is essence, they moved from being a t
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jcr (53032)
        I hope that when HP craters, Agilent buys the name back from the receivers.

        -jcr

  • I can't wait until the stories of Sony spying on Nintendo or Microsoft come out. You KNOW it has to be going on.
  • In spite of more attacks, true or not, in the media on HP's image as an honest company, my prediction is their stock price will continue to go up.
    • In spite of more attacks, true or not, in the media on HP's image as an honest company, my prediction is their stock price will continue to go up.

      My head almost exploded trying to parse this "sentence". Can anyone diagram this sentence and post it on the internet? sheesh.
  • by ruiner13 (527499) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:35PM (#17753372) Homepage
    Seriously, they spy on their own employees, they spy on other companies, how do I know they aren't spying on me via our office HPs? Who do they think they are, the Bush administration [yahoo.com]?
    • Actually they do. Most of their consumer level printers have drivers that monitor every move you make and phone home. They even send the computer date down to the printer in order to enforce their ink extortion schemes.
    • by KKlaus (1012919)
      To some extent they actually do... many modern printers print unique paterns on every paper they print that are invisible to the human eye (very nearly at least) but are serials and timestamps to connect the printer and anything it prints, and then obviously to stores and credit card records etc. Its an anti-counterfeit measure to give police a lead when they find (poorly) counterfeited money. I don't know what quantity of HP printers do this (because its not public information), but you can assume some.
    • Companies spying on their own employees seems pretty draconian. But the kind of corporate espionage we're talking about here is commonplace. The book Spooked, [amazon.com] by Adam L. Penenberg and Marc Barry, has some good stories about this stuff. You'd be surprised how much espionage went on in the frozen pizza market -- that oven-rising crust was a bigger deal than you realize.

      I actually worked for a small graphic design company in San Francisco that tried it. It's pretty common in these kinds of firms for some of

  • Wouldn't be an easier method to sell more to try not to overprice the ink for their printers than to spy on others business?

    --
    Superb hosting [tinyurl.com] 200GB Storage, 2_TB_ bandwidth, php, mysql, ssh, $7.95
  • by frinkster (149158) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:37PM (#17753424)
    Just as an FYI, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has become very popular of late for the "little guy" suing a big corporation. The juries down there seem to hate large companies ;)

    A lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas is almost always associated with patent trolling, since the Eastern District of Texas certainly doesn't have much in the way of large cities, large corporations, or large R&D departments. Why it exists is a pretty decent question.
  • I own a Samsung laser printer because it has linux support :-)

    Personally I hope both HP and Dell fail
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Technician (215283)
      I own a Samsung laser printer because it has linux support :-)

      Tried a newer distro of Linux?

      When I finaly retired Windows 98 and loaded Ubuntu on a machine on my LAN, it fould both my older HP printers just fine.

      Personally I hope both HP and Dell fail

      I am aiming that way quickly. My wife got a Dell printer with her new (not anymore) XP computer. We about fell over laughing when we saw the size of the print carts. We looked up the price of the replacements. They were the same price as the carts for the H
      • by evilviper (135110)
        I think Cannon will eat both of them for lunch if they are not careful.

        Canon seems happy to be a niche player, with no interest in expanding. Maybe that will change, but not anytime soon.

        And I've got news for you if you think Canon printer drivers are going to be any better than the experience you've had...
        • And I've got news for you if you think Canon printer drivers are going to be any better than the experience you've had...

          Which experiance; Dell or HP?

          I was under the impression that Cannon printers were used on Apple computers and such unlike the Dell which are Windows only.

          I just jumped over to Cannon's website and picked a random model and went to driver downloads. The i950 has these drivers ready for download.

          Add-on Module for Printe
          • However, at least for some printers the turboprint drivers are not free for full quality printing. Also, there is some work on reverse engineering the scanner drivers on cannon multifunctions (this is where I give HP some credit as their multifunction printers mostly work on Linux), but it is pretty hit and miss. However, HP printers suck despite working on Linux. Turboprint give you low quality printing, though you can network from a Windows machine to Linux and print with full quality with the free tur
      • We donated it to Goodwill instead. It's there if someone really wants it.

        Oh, like the average Goodwill shopper can afford the print carts - next time just cut out the middle man and take it straight to the recycler. :)
  • I heard from a dell rep that all they use in their offices are HP's.
  • No biggy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by popo (107611) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:43PM (#17753554) Homepage

    Why are we pretending this is a big deal? The settlement (in millions) will still be less than the severance package of
    a top executive. Neither company's reputation is in the least bit tarnished in the public eye, and the whole thing
    will blow over (in fact, it already has). This isn't politics, its corporate America. Was it pathetic, wrong and lame?
    Uh, Yeah. You new here?
  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:50PM (#17753664) Journal
    > An ex-HP exec claims he was instructed by the company's management to spy on Dell's printer business plans.

    Actually they were wondering if anyone at Dell had managed to get a printer working with Windows.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Technician (215283)
      Actually they were wondering if anyone at Dell had managed to get a printer working with Windows.

      Funny thing you mentioned that. When my wife got a Dell printer with her Dell XP computer a few years ago, we found it came with drivers for XP and 2K only. On my home LAN the wife's XP was the only PC that could use the printer unlike the HP printers already on the LAN. We donated the printer to Goodwill when it ran out of ink and reclaimed the desk space.
      • by mgblst (80109)
        Cool. Why don't you tell us the story about how you donated your printer to Goodwill as well, I haven't heard that one for a while.
    • Mod parent funny but insightful? Pretty sure all the people modding that have never tried installing a printer on Windows. If something that really sucked was installing Modems in Windows 98 days. Windows may suck but I am yet to see a printer not working with Windows specially with the versions that came after Windows ME.
  • by SocietyoftheFist (316444) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @12:51PM (#17753684)
    I worked at a telecomm equipment manufacturer and was looking for a document on a network share one day when I noticed some oddly named directories. The directories were available for me to view so I figured that if I had the correct permissions, I can go inside those directories. Inside I found technical documentation, trade secrets, etc... for the competitors products that wasn't supposed to leave the competitors campus. I pointed out to my direct manager that permissions probably should be changed on that directory.
  • It's unauthorized interloping. Kind of like pretexting isn't lying.

    And I'm sure Kamb didn't steal company secrets, he merely relocated them to a more secure area.

    FTA:

    While still employed by HP, these former high-level employees and their co-conspirators covertly organised and began operating a competing business venture using HP's resources, contacts and trade secrets," HP claimed in court documents.

    Inveterate Prevaricator:
    Competing busines venture? Compete is such a strong word... I prefer

  • Does this matter? dell printers are just other companies printers rebranded. Some of the expensive color laser printers are just rebranded zerox.
  • It all depends on what you mean by "spying." If you mean to aggressively pursue information using legal methods, then spying can be a reasonable and useful tool for a company to understand its marketplace. But it'ss not okay if illegal methods (e.g. pretexting) are used to obtain information. It's not clear to me from the article that there is even an allegation of HP having illegally spied on Dell.

    Still, if a responsible business such as HP chooses to pay a third party for information, I see little excu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since most hardware is manufactured in China, industrial espionage should be treated with Chinese standards.
    It would be interesting to get some former HP employees executed and their organs supplied ("voluntarily", of course, as in case of all the executed Chinese criminals) to the growing Chinese organ transplant business, aimed mostly for international clients.

     
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @01:48PM (#17754734) Journal
    HP should have learnt by now. It should have used the Genuine OEM brand spies. You might find cheaper replacement spies on the internet, but they leak eventually, and ruin it all.
  • relabeling (Score:3, Funny)

    by glsunder (241984) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @02:02PM (#17755062)
    So is HP going to start relabeling cheapo lexmark printers now?
  • Because HP has been buying the printers of the competition for years and checking them in thier labs... Disecting printers testing the dots and shades of the prints being done... I remember once talking to a guy in HP research who commented that HP had in its hands printers which did photos at an astronomical rate of speed... HP just wanted to release slow improvements to quality prints than sudden.. To keep the consumers coming back for the next best thing... Hard Drive makers have done the same thing.. T
  • Actually (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kankraka (936176)
    I can see a reason HP would be quite interested in what Dell is doing with their 'brand' of printers. Every Dell printer I've ever seen is a Lexmark that's been re-branded with the Dell logo and a different ink cartridge and print head. Now obviously that printer is going to be using the same ink as the Lexmark counterpart, just with the cartridge modified a little bit to fit in the modified print head to stop you from just buying Lexmark ink. As far as I know, you can buy Lexmark ink and just switch the pl
  • ..."Intel Inside" stickers on Dell computers.
  • Hell, it's not that hard for HP to spy on Dell! Dell's repair center is right behind HP's, we can turn around from our benches and hear shit!

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