August 19, 2011

HP Punks out on its Webos Strategy

Palm Pre shot from Mobile World Congress.I'm a huge fan of the Webos operating system created by Palm and later bought by HP.  This beautiful, elegant, intuitive true multitasking operating system was the only real challenger to IOS in its potential.  When Palm faltered for lack of resources and HP swooped in and bought them, declaring they would "double down" on Webos, enthusiasts for the OS rejoiced.

It was therefore a disappointment of EPIC proportions when HP announced yesterday that they would be selling the personal systems group which produces all their hardware, including Webos devices. Webos faithful across our little mobile community reacted with shock and outrage.  I was right there with them.  People thought that Palm executed on the marketing and sales of the Pre very poorly and we all just knew that HP with its scale, size, bags of money and engineering nohow, would be able to market Webos in the way that Palm could not.  We've all been shocked to see that not only did they not do better, they did WORSE! Sales of Touchpad have not been good enough, the Pre3 has yet to see the light of day in the US, I mean, start to finish, its been a clusterfark.

Image representing Hewlett-Packard as depicted...
Today,  HP stock price falls 23% to a 6 year low as investors rightly hammer their decision to dump hardware and webos devices and buy a big UK software company and take HP in the direction of being a cloud services, enterprise software company.  They deserve it. As Mashable.com  noted:

The company’s bold moves came after its webOS unit lost $336 million, mostly because of the doomed TouchPad launch. Sales for HP’s consumer PC unit fell 23% in the last quarter....
Still, not everyone believes that HP was right to cut its losses. Investors apparently don’t and neither does Sarah Rotman Epps, a consumer analyst with Forrester Research. “HP withdrew itself from the post-PC competition before it even got started,” she says. “The reality is they didn’t try very hard.”

 I totally agree.  They did a lousy job.  Putting out a tablet before the next phone. Announcing product and not delivering for months.  And then, after all the hype, exiting the competition before it even got started, lying to customers and basically murdering the future of the best mobile OS out there in its crib because they were too lazy to be the innovative parents of the mobile future they paid $1.2 billion to be. They had a great product and destroyed their opportunity by phoning in the execution.

So now the Webos faithful are waiting to see if Webos will get another chance with someone via licensing or to my mind much better, an outright buy of the patents and OS by HTC or Samsung, in that order. HP has talked about licensing, but I don't think any of us are holding our breath since most of what they have had to say has clearly meant nothing.  Furthermore, the way they announced this decision only hurt Webos' chances since they told everyone they were abandoning it before they had any plan for what they would do to exit the business.  Dewitt, the executive leader responsible for the  business unit that produces webos devices didn't even know this was coming, as was apparent from their hastily called all hands meeting following the announcement. Thats indicative of a a strategic tailspin and a company whose parts are not working with any synergy and investors are rightly pounding HP's stock because of the message these recent actions send. I have no sympathy.

HP, you should make Webos open source and set up a foundation to administer and grow it.  It won't make you any money, but you could do something useful and good and right here by doing that. It would at least make some amends for the way you have wasted the Webos' community's time, investment and the way you have totally frakked over the future of the best mobile operating system to hit the planet.  It'll never happen, that would be too much like right and HP is a public company that has the same shortsighted eye on near term profits and share price to the detriment of innovation and building a quality product for the future that's all too typical of such behemoths. 

Wordmark of HTC. Trademarked by HTC.HTC, please come to the rescue and buy Webos from HP lock, stock and barrel and take it to the next level.  Its an awesome hedge of your bets vis a vis Android, Google and Motorola.  You make great hardware and we all believe you can make Webos sing.

Palm's webOS logo.

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