The business press has come alive over the past few weeks as companies as diverse as Delta, Facebook, and Tesla have publicly declared that they want to own software development for key applications. What should catch your attention about these announcements is the types of software these firms want to control. Delta is acquiring the software IP and data associated with an application that affects 180 of its customer and flight operations systems. Facebook is building proprietary software to simplify interactions between its sales teams and the advertisers posting ads on the social networking site. And Tesla has developed its own enterprise resource management (ERP) and commerce platform that links the manufacturing history of a vehicle with important sales and customer support systems. Tesla's CIO Jay Vijayan, in describing his organization's system, sums up the sentiment behind many of these business decisions: "It helps the company move really fast."
Yesterday HP announced that it will be entering into a “non-equity joint venture” (think big strategic contract of some kind with a lot of details still in flight) to address the large-scale web services providers. Under the agreement, Foxcon will design and manufacture and HP will be the primary sales channel for new servers targeted at hyper scale web service providers. The new servers will be branded HP but will not be part of the current ProLiant line of enterprise servers, and HP will deliver additional services along with hardware sales.
The motivation is simple underneath all the rhetoric. HP has been hard-pressed to make decent margins selling high-volume low-cost and no-frills servers to web service providers, and has been increasingly pressured by low-cost providers. Add to that the issue of customization, which these high-volume customers can easily get from smaller and more agile Asian ODMs and you have a strategic problem. Having worked at HP for four years I can testify to the fact that HP, a company maniacal about quality but encumbered with an effective but rigid set of processes around bringing new products to market, has difficulty rapidly turning around a custom design, and has a cost structure that makes it difficult to profitably compete for deals with margins that are probably in the mid-teens.
Enter the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, more commonly known as Foxcon. A longtime HP partner and widely acknowledged as one of the most efficient and agile manufacturing companies in the world, Foxcon brings to the table the complementary strengths to match HP – agile design, tightly integrated with its manufacturing capabilities.