Yesterday around this time HP’s CEO Leo Appotheker confirmed what rumors had been circulating all day; that Hewlett-Packard would discontinue the HP TouchPad and Smartphone’s running WebOS along with the possible spin off or selling of its Hardware arm. As of now you’ve heard the commentary, read the opinion pieces, and if you were a Palm/WebOS fan held a small wake.
Its funny a week ago I was contemplating posting a small review of the TouchPad, but like a lot of others, I find myself writing a sort of eulogy. Now what can be said of WebOS that hasn’t been said by much better writers than me? It was the closest one can get to using an iPad without buying an Apple device. I would say its an IOS that was really shined up well for presentation. The card metaphor used for multi-tasking was cool. And it had more going for it than the Android tablets out there. But it came on hardware that wasn’t well thought out and it didn’t have the application you need if you want to make a dent in the current consumer market. If this thing had had the same soft touch plastic/metal the Barnes&Nobel Nook had it would’ve at least put on a good front. But it didn’t, it was not selling well (rumors are out that Best Buy was asking for HP to take them back, which it appears they’ll do), and now the company is now moving onto the confines of the business software/services market which has made them more money.
People are hoping against hope that the well liked WebOS will find a new home; with people hoping HTC, Amazon, or RIM will lease the operating system from HP. I will in a minute talk about why that might not be such a good idea in a minute. The other big news from HP was that it is discussion on whether to spinoff or sell there Personal Systems Group (the PC side) sans WebOS. The move is shocking because Hewlett-Packard is the world’s largest seller of personal computers in the world. A lot of people are looking at this and are saying that we really are living in the post-PC age. The whole event has been surreal. But it also illustrates what I think has been a long time coming in consumer computing and also why its so hard for PC makers to compete with Apple products.
Now this is my opinion but this is what I take from this whole HP affair
Building a Platform is Harder than it Looks
A lot of talk that happened when HP purchased Palm (maker of WebOS) was that this would allow HP to become independent of Microsoft and Google. What nobody talks about is the work and cost it takes to build an ecosystem. People complain about Microsoft, but they pay attention to their developers and they go out and get developers. HP did little of this. Creating a platform involves both developing relations with developers but tools for them, roadmaps, and constant communications. I think in the move toward mobile applications, its easy to forget that the creation and maintenance of programming and code is hard. There is a lot of cost behind keeping software running and the frameworks on which it runs. HP looks like it didn’t really invest in this side of the game.
Buying a brand gives you a Brand name only
Without working on the ad campaign, new products, and building customer trust what you bought is well designed image you put on a white T. HP bought Palm and thought slapping WebOS and HP on a black slab of plastic would bring in money. They also thought a splashy ad campaign sans
Know what you are walking into and what’s acquired
The consumer space is hard and it involves more than just hardware or software, but a balancing act that also requires a need to think about design, marketing, and getting the right software partners. And its going to take more than 49 days to get traction. HP should’ve been planning for the long haul, now they look like they got Apple envy.
If they spin off the consumer hardware group Microsoft should invest in a HP hardware spinoff. Like they did with Facebook. Call it a long view play. Imagine a PC maker who more closely aligned to Redmond technology. It also provides a bulwark against any other companies leaving the consumer market. It could also be seen as Microsoft is committed to the OEM model