HP, err, Agilent, has a new name…

  AgilentSparkLogo125   KeysightLogo

So, HP, err, I mean Agilent, have a new name – Keysight Technologies. That’s as big a news as it gets in the electronics industry, but as Julius Sumner Miller said, why is it so?

Does anyone care if they change their name?
You bet!
In 1939 Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard put their own names behind their new business, and on a coin toss, Hewlett Packard it was. Since then generations of electronics engineers have grown up with the HP name, and trusted it as the biggest name in the Test & Measurement business. The name was everything, just like other companies named after their founder(s), like Fluke for example, the name means everything. Even if Bill & Dave haven’t had a hand in things for a long time, the personal name still meant something, everyone knew Bill & Dave, and they trusted their stuff. This shit is personal!

That’s why in 1999, HP splitting off anything not related to computers into a new company was a real punch in the gut to electronics nerds everywhere. Not really the splitting up part (that was generally deemed a good thing), but the computer division getting the fabled HP name, whilst the true heart and soul of the old HP, the instruments division got a new name, Agilent. That sucked, and many say was the end of the real HP.

It was such a punch in the gut, that many engineers even today, 14 years later, still call Agilent gear “HP”. The sales guys must hate it! It took me a decade to get over it, but I still catch myself calling them HP to this day.

Now, at the time I thought the choice of Agilent as the name wasn’t too bad. It sounded kinda “professional” in some way, even if I thought it did have something to do with the new  “Agile” management craze sweeping the corporate world at the time. It certainly could have been a lot worse.

But the Agilent “spark” logo sucked, it really did. Almost like it was just selected from some clipart library. But no doubt some marketing wanker got paid big bucks to come up with and a stupid meaning behind it.

But in the end I think the change to the Agilent name actually worked, or at least didn’t hurt them. You were proud to say “hey, come check out my new Agilent scope”, it didn’t sound silly. So with hindsight, changing the name of the T&M division didn’t really hurt it financially or technology-wise, but I guess we’ll never know if changing the name of the computer division would have helped or hindered HP. But the computer part of HP ended up being a train wreck anyway.

But anyone with any sense of the company history knows that the HP name should have gone with the T&M division. But hey, corporate politics doesn’t work like that, it’s strictly numbers and what high paid consultants tell them.

And that brings us to the latest renaming. The 1999 split-up wasn’t perfect, because unknown to quite a lot of us T&M nerds, the “life sciences” part went with Agilent too, and that was a huge part of HP/Agilent. Bigger in fact than the T&M division. And so once again Agilent has grown to too big for it’s own good, or at least it’s been too long between major shakeups, whichever came first. Because that’s what boards and CEO’s like to do, you know, that high falutin “strategic” stuff we mere mortals can’t possibly comprehend.

The powers-that-be have determined that it would be better to split the company up yet again, and that will allow each division to better focus on core products.
a.k.a an internal bitch fight over which division makes more profit margin, and who’s carrying whom… and there is probably some short term market gain in it too, what a bonus.

So we find ourselves in the same situation as before. The heart and soul of HP, err, Agilent, the T&M division, is being cast aside and given a new name. Hey, it worked before, right? Only this time, it’s arse-about. We have the niche, high priced, lower volume life sciences division getting to keep the name. But the life sciences health care part of the share market is huge, and makes all the money, didn’t you know? This split could make the share price jump because they are casting off that weird T&M stuff that the market analysts don’t understand. Well, ok, fair enough from a share brokers perspective I guess, this change makes financial and stategic sense, so no hard feelings.

Us T&M nerds are tough, we can handle another name change!

Then, after a couple of months of breathless anticipation, we just found out they are calling it “Keysight Technologies”. WTF?

Seriously, WTF!? This name sucks arse.
It sounds like some Wun Hung Lo company on ebay selling rip-off phone chargers.
They may as well have called it the “Happy Lucky Instrument Co”.

At least Agilent had a professional kind of ring to it when used as a single word .
Hey, check out my new Agilent scope” works.
Hey, check out my new Keysight scope” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Keysight Technologies can now expect even more push-back than they had against Agilent. And I suspect no amount of marketing $$$ will save this one like it did last time.
In fact, I think there might be a roaring trade in black market old-school HP badges, to retrofit over the new Keysight name. Ebay sellers will pop up within a matter of weeks.

I’m a parent, and someone once told that you shouldn’t name your kid something that sounds stupid when you have to yell it out at the top of your lungs in public. And that you should actually try yelling it out a few times to see what it sounds like before you chose. I suspect someone at Agilent failed to do the shout test.

Keysight is a name you get when you design it by committee. And it seems they have. They admit that the new name is based on their new slogan “Unlocking Measurement Insights for the last 75 years.
It seems that someone got infatuated with this “measurements insight” stuff, and found a name to fit. Bingo, Keysight, because, well, I’ll let Ron Nersesian the new CEO explain it in fluent marketing Klingon:

What Keysight means.
Keysight is built from two English words: key, meaning indispensable or essential, a means of access; and insight, meaning the power of seeing, having vision and perception. The name connotes seeing what others cannot, having the critical or key insight to understand and unlock the changing technology landscape. 

The name Keysight reflects our rich heritage–a direct line from both Hewlett-Packard’s standards of integrity and innovation and Agilent’s premier measurement business. We believe our new name captures the spirit of our organization and the DNA of our employees –innovative, insightful and forward-looking. 

Keysight is built on ‘firsts’ dating back to the birth of HP and Silicon Valley 75 years ago this year, and as a new company we are committed to bringing you a new generation of firsts – unlocking insights for you so you can in turn bring a new generation of technologies into the world. 


The name Keysight conveys the ability to see what others cannot, offering the critical or key insights to understand and unlock the changing technology landscape. The new company’s tagline, “unlocking measurement insights for 75 years,” commemorates the 1939 birth of the original Hewlett-Packard Company, from which Keysight originated.

But hey, there is that token nod to Bill & Dave, that gem of a tie-in must have really sold the suits!

But wait!, they didn’t screw up everything, I like the new logo, I think it works for a T&M company. So this time they got the logo right, but screwed the pooch on the name, well done. Does anyone outside of the HP board of suits like this new name? Did they give the valuable employees a vote I wonder? I’d be surprised if support hits double digits. But hey, you can’t do these things by popular vote, someone’s got to have the balls to make a decision. Too bad you cop all the flack when it sucks. Maybe if you asked them if would have sucked less? I think the decision should have gone to the guy with the longest grey beard.

But wait, there’s more!

It seems this wasn’t their only logo choice though, as someone on the EEVblog forum quickly found out when they googled imaged the new name.
It brings up a patent and trademark aggregator site that lists the registrations for at least one alternative logo:

And further research on the filing attorney’s portfolio shows what looks like several possible alternative company names as well! (disclaimer: I could be wrong, but look at the identical industry scopes on each one)

Holy dodgy PR consultancy wank words Batman!
Keysight, was actually a good pick, I stand corrected.
Here is the company involved in the new name, a “catch word” “naming agency” that went through over 5000 name to pick out this gem!


So what’s in store for Keysight Technologies?

Good news is that the split will mean more focus on T&M, with the CEO and board just dedicated to that. A good move, just like it was last time from a management and focus perspective. Focus is important.

Bad news it seems they are not expected to pay a dividend. That means the shareholders will eventually push them to slash costs if they can’t turn the new T&M company into a profit-making machine quickly. And when big companies like this slash costs, you know what that means, they slash across the board, and that means cutting those really talented engineers that have been producing the magic for the last half century that drives our industry. And they are what makes the company.
But the management there are probably amateurs at this, and if it does occur it shouldn’t have the same blood from a stone brutality as the legendary Danaher Business System.
And another thing, a smaller market cap HP, err Keysight, might make an easier takeover target too, but lets not go there.

I hope that doesn’t happen though, because HP are still the best in the business, and deserve to stay that way. Another name change won’t matter a rats arse, it’ll be business as usual, with many of us sticking to calling them HP. Which is why I don’t know they they bothered with a wanky name that they thought would mean something to their customers. It doesn’t, you failed, we’ll buy HP no matter what you are called. So you should have just picked a cool name that meant nothing at all. But heck, if you really had to make it mean something, why not go Back to the Future and call it B&D Technologies. Here is your new logo:


I could have written one sentence that the name change simply sucked and left it at, but, like Agilent, I had to attempt to explain why. Sorry.

Long live HP.

Discuss on the Forum HERE

CLICK HERE for the story of how Agilent got it’s new name

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