Cisco's Chambers Roots For H-P While Competing Against It

John Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive, is quick to concede that his company has shifted from being a partner of Hewlett-Packard to a competitor. But he sounds pretty sympathetic about his rival and its current troubles.

One reason has to do with history, and the period after Chambers joined the maker of networking gear nearly 20 years. At that time, he recalls, Cisco (CSCO) had about 400 employees and H-P was the giant that had helped create Silicon Valley.

Yet Chambers says that H-P (HPQ), under Lewis Platt, was the one company that was eager to give management guidance to Cisco. “Lew Platt and his whole management team–every quarter they met with us,” Chambers says. He says he kept asking H-P what Cisco could do to the repay the assistance; he was told the best way was to build a great company of his own, to “do it for the next generation,” he recalls.

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