08/21/2011, 11:12 PM
I'm far from the only one who feels webOS will live on & on!
Is WebOS Dead? I Don't Think So…What’s going on at HP? When will the drama end and the leadership begin? And will WebOS become the real major competitor to Android?
By Craig Mathias on Sun, 08/21/11 - 5:28pm.
Nearpoints: Is WebOS Dead? I Don't Think So
OK, I'll admit that the news last week that HP is killing off its mobile hardware products (handsets and tablets) based on the WebOS that they got from their acquisition of Palm caught me by surprise. In retrospect, though, it shouldn't have; HP is a company that is now spiraling out of control, and their problems have little to do with technology.
I've written positively about HP during the Mark Hurd era, and I've admired their whatever-you-need corporate strategy. Want a single PC, printer, or storage device? They've got that. Want a complete, large-scale IT infrastructure managed by HP? They've got that, too, and everything in between. And their wireless LAN product line is broad and competitive.
But the departure of former CEO Hurd over seemingly inconsequential issues (falsified expense reports, of all things) signaled that problems at the Board of Directors level, so obvious and even public during the Carly Fiorina/Patty Dunn era, were still present. Hurd was a great fit at HP and is a great manager regardless. HP's board was positively stupid to cut him loose, unless there is more to the story, in which case he wouldn't be running a major public company like Oracle, now, would he?
Hurd's successor, Léo (pronounced Lay-o) Apotheker, seems like a poor choice for this position. He's more like a turnaround guy, with the personality of an IRS agent (based on my having seen him interviewed on a few of the business channels over the past year; he lacks the charisma and the enthusiasm one expects in a CEO), and he doesn't seem to have the personal background fitting a technology/engineering-driven firm like HP. Indeed, it has been theorized that he wants to move the company into becoming essentially another IBM sans the hardware and the research, and thus fundamentally focused on software and services, rather than HP's traditional hardware products. But the dramatic shifts in strategy with little explanation leave me scratching my head regardless.
OK, fair enough; HP may need to abandon technology leadership if such maximizes shareholder returns (sorry, folks, but that's ultimately what it's all about - take cash from willing customers and make the share price go up). But while managing such a transition might not be at all obvious or even easy, it is however vital, absolutely vital, that both customers and shareholders be reassured while the process unfolds. So, what does HP do last week? They kill promising products, in their own Flip camera moment. They hint that they may exit the PC business, the largest business unit in the company, to say nothing of being a big contributor to profits. Would you by a PC from HP now? No, probably not. And, if PCs are out, what's in? No word on that.
All of this looks like amateur hour to me. WebOS is a fine piece of software with great potential for the cloud-centric future and it's much too early in the evolution of the current generation of client devices for HP to throw in the towel here. Are we really ready to accept an Android/iOS duopoly on clients? I certainly hope not. Sure, QNX and even Windows 8 have a shot, but WebOS, I think, will find a home with an industry player that understands business strategy and knows how to execute. HP's current Board and CEO clearly don't have the skill set required, but there are many who do.
So, what's HP going to focus on now? I really don't know. But I do believe that WebOS will find that home, and that its future is indeed bright. OK, some of this is wishful thinking and perhaps we should apply a probability here of no more than .55 or so. And, oh my, if Google really screws up with the Motorola acquisition and the Android OEMs bail - hey wait a second, might they band together and move to WebOS? Hmmm...