It’s one thing when one big competitor tries to spy on another in order to obtain trade secrets. It’s bogus and unlawful to be sure, but I’m sure it happens more often than we think. H-P, though, has certainly taken the spying game to a whole new level with yesterday’s revelation it had considered eavesdropping on the operations of CNET and The Wall Street Journal.
Apparently willing to do just about anything to get to the bottom of those irksome boardroom leaks, H-P was actually thinking about sub-contracting some work to a James Bond-type.
Can’t you just imagine the scene at CNET’s cafeteria if H-P had, in fact, planted a spy there?
CNET employee number one: "I have got to lose another five pounds in time for the wedding or I’m toast."
CNET employee number two: "If I’m not mistaken, quite a few of the H-P directors are weight challenged. Wonder if we could find out what diet plans they’re on? Ah, yes, I’ll take a turkey and Swiss on wheat bread with mayo and tomatoes, please."
Cafeteria clerk: "You bet. And, how about you sir? Yes, you in the back. The one in the black suit, white shirt and tie with sunglasses. What’ll it be?"
H-P Bond-type, with British accent: "Coffee please. Shaken, not stirred."
Anyway, what impact will the spying hijinks have on H-P’s already shaky corporate reputation? For a company that was once the darling of Silicon Valley, H-P is in full image and reputation freefall right now. If these spying allegations are true, then heads need to roll. And, H-P management needs to be up front and center, either completely denying the allegations or suggesting a separate, internal investigation of its own.
I have to believe employees are walking the H-P hallways on eggshells right now, not knowing friend from foe. And, I’ll bet every little click on the telephone prompts a Pavlovian response. If H-P had been smart about it, they would have brought Sean Connery out of semi-retirement and done the spying thing right.