No comment

Toronto is once again firmly in the grip of Stanley Cup fever, even though at press time the city’s beloved Maple Leafs were more than a round away from a shot at the league’s premiere prize.

It’s everywhere you look: Flags are proudly displayed from car roofs, coverage of the play-offs

routinely makes it to the front page of national newspapers and fans honk their car horns whenever the Leafs win a game and edge a little closer to the final series. It got to the point where a friend of mine actually asked a kid who was holding a “”Honk if you love the Leafs”” sign to move away from his apartment building because the constant hooting was driving him up the wall. And he’s a Leafs diehard.

Every hockey fan’s got an opinion these days, but sometimes it’s the things people don’t say that tell you the most about them.

As part of ITBusiness.ca’s HP/Compaq coverage this week, I was assigned to contact leaders and key figures in Canada’s IT economy to gauge their reaction and get comment on the momentous deal. I probably called about 30 to 40 people over a two day period and got nine responses.

That’s actually not a bad return. Some people didn’t return calls, some got back to me but didn’t make my deadline, some were too busy, some just couldn’t be reached by their PR firms. But what struck me was the number of people who refused to comment. They said they don’t like to talk about the competition. Even if HP isn’t a direct competitor, they don’t like to comment on other companies. Some people went so far as to say they don’t even have an opinion. These are people who work for some of the largest high-tech companies in the world.

At first pass, this all seems pretty absurd. The HP/Compaq deal is the largest of its kind in the history of IT. It will have ramifications for years to come. It will affect consumer choice, corporate outsourcing deals, partnerships, product lifecycles — the list goes on and on. There’s no one out there working in IT who won’t be affected, directly or indirectly, by this merger. The HP brouhaha wasn’t the easiest story to follow and it would have been useful to publish comments from industry insiders which could signpost some of the weightier issues.

The anti-competitive defence doesn’t really hold water either. I’ve attended keynote speeches delivered by the likes of PeopleSoft’s Craig Conway and Sun Microsystems’ Ed Zander where bashing the competition is only a few notches below promoting a new product on the corporate agenda. Oracle chief Larry Ellison, the undisputed master of the snide aside, actually said he preferred GameCube over Xbox during a keynote at last year’s OpenWorld conference, just to take a couple of extra digs at Microsoft. While Ellison delivered his speech, IBM circled the conference centre in downtown San Francisco with anti-Oracle billboards mounted on trucks. High-tech can be a dirty business.

That said, most people don’t take Larry Ellison’s dog and pony show too seriously (I hope), and the baiting and name-calling that goes on between companies isn’t too hard to dismiss.

In a way, I can’t really blame companies for refusing to comment on HP, simply because it is such a huge deal. They can’t really win. The merger went through despite what seemed insurmountable odds — the protestations of the Department of Justice and the Hewlett clan, to name a few. Some companies don’t like to comment on others purely as policy, because they don’t want to get into the name-calling game or because they just don’t see any upside to it. They also may not want to upset one of the largest hardware vendors in the world.

It’s for that reason I specifically didn’t ask people to comment on HP the company, but on the impact the deal will have on the IT economy. The HP deal is larger than the sum of its parts, but getting some companies to admit that turned out to be harder than getting some Leafs fans to curb their enthusiasm.</Pnsutton@itbusiness.ca

Neil Sutton is a staff writer for ITBusiness.ca. Shane Schick will return on Monday.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+