Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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What will HP do with Palm’s webOS? Mostly likely: fail

Daniel Eran Dilger

For some time, it’s been obvious that Palm desperately needed a deep pocketed partner in order for its fledgling webOS to remain a viable competitor in the smartphone area. It was less obvious HP might be the one interested. But now that the $1.2 billion deal is done, what’s the chances it will work out?

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Outlook not so good

Three years ago, I outlined the dire circumstances that had resulted in Palm tumbling down the stairs from its former position as one of the first successful smartphone vendors to being a bland, comatose company out of fresh ideas and unable to sell its products.

After the iPhone was released, Palm’s fortunes just fell further through the floor. However, after hiring Apple’s iPod chief and a number of iPhone engineers, Palm managed a spectacular reinvention of itself to deliver what appeared to be a credible competitor in the new Palm Pre.

The new platform was purposely limited in scope, but aimed at what appeared to be a viable target: the rapidly growing market for sophisticated phones slightly below the iPhone. While the launch was not without problems, its success was primarily limited by the size of Palm and its initial mobile partner.

Yet even as it branched out from Sprint to join Verizon and then expand toward AT&T, Palm simply couldn’t get its sales into the range it needed to sustain itself and its future development. Hemorrhaging cash, Palm needed a big hardware partner.

Lenovo and HTC were among those cited as possibly interested in buying Palm for its new OS, but in the end it was snapped up by HP, which has had little success in smartphones or consumer electronics devices at all. Where’s the synergy?

The Egregious Incompetence of Palm
Palm Pre: The Emperor’s New Phone

Don’t count on it

When one big dumb company buys another, there’s never a net gain in intelligence. Ask Palm, which itself spent $11 million in 2001 buying Be, Inc. assets, only to ineffectually fold portions of its technology into a product nobody bought (the Cobalt OS). It was subsequently put into cold storage.

Or consider HP, which merged in 2001 with Compaq for a spectacular $25 billion, converting the two companies’ combined 18.3% share of the PC market into a merged company that subsequently sat on a 14.5% share for the next half decade, only to work its way back up to its historical high through the volume sales of unprofitable, low end junkware PC and netbooks.

Post merger, HP destroyed nearly all the cool things Compaq brought to the table, including but not limited to its DEC Alpha processor and its Digital Unix, also known as Tru64. HP essentially paid $25 billion to erase a competitor and gain a low end brand name for it could apply to some of its PCs. And its iPaq PDAs, don’t forget those.

Cannot predict now

There are mergers that can work quite well. Certainly Apple’s acquisition of NeXT in 1996 was a tremendous example of pairing a technology-needy company with a market to a market-needy company with technology. But there are several reasons for pessimism about Palm.

For starters, it’s difficult to mix divergent corporate cultures. Even Apple and NeXT experienced some transition issues, and those two companies were essentially twins separated at birth. Palm has reinvented itself as a nimble startup, while HP is a creaky old giant that does things as conservatively as a dinosaur. That’s not a marriage made in heaven; its suffocation for Palm and confusing source of irritation for HP’s status quo.

There also has to be some decisive leadership in a merger. In the Apple/NeXT saga, it was clearly Steve Jobs and his team who took control of Apple and remade the company as a vehicle for NeXT’s ambitions. Had Jobs not taken that role, the Old Apple would likely have frittered away its potential, sidelining NeXT’s technology into a patent portfolio while allowing beige Macs to slowly die out along with anemic sales of the Newton Message Pad.

And yet I don’t really think Jon Rubinstein is going to take over HP and remake the colossal giant in the image of Palm. In fact, there’s scuttlebutt that suggests HP isn’t interested in Rubinstein continuing to manage the assets it just paid lots of money to obtain. That seems like a grave mistake, but a likely move for a company that already thinks its doing a good job.

My reply is no

The fantasy best-case-scenario is that HP will simply continue to sell Palm Pre phones while it works up a new product line of tablets and smartphones and perhaps smartbooks and netbooks and other devices over the next year.

But the problem Palm was facing wasn’t that people weren’t buying the Pre due to Palm itself not being strong enough financially. People weren’t buying Palm’s offerings because they were just poorly built hardware running a somewhat unfinished platform without much in the way of apps, all for essentially the same price as the iPhone and a variety of other options. Being owned by HP doesn’t immediately solve that problem at all.

In fact, HP is mostly known for selling shoddy hardware itself, particularly within the consumer space. Its PCs come loaded with piles of junkware; even its well-regarded printers are outfitted with terrible software. What does HP bring to the table? It has no ability to create desirable mobile hardware (despite trying for a decade), no experience in successfully managing a software platform (outside of servers), and no track record in handling mergers that were anything more than layoff bloodbaths.

What does Palm offer? A smartphone software platform it hastily developed in the course of about year in 2008 and then tainted with the stink of failure in 2009. HP should have been able to whip that together itself. So why did it pay $1.2 billion for a ready made operating system that it will now need to extensively modify in order to spread it beyond the smartphones it was originally designed to serve? Hmm, that’s a hard question.

Very doubtful

There is nothing about the webOS that suggests it was intended to scale beyond the small screen of smartphones like the Pre, yet analysts are already fantasizing that HP will drop Windows 7 to create a webOS-powered tablet. Why is that? Because they think that if Apple could manage that, anyone can. Just like everyone successfully copied the iPod and the iPhone and the App Store and everything else Apple’s done. Oh wait, no that didn’t ever happen at all.

The thing is, Apple is pulling in billions of dollars of revenue from its new mobile business, so it can invest lots of money into developing that technology. And clearly, Apple got started on the iPhone OS with more than just the iPhone in mind. There’s reason to believe that the iPad concept actually predated the iPhone in reports of a “Safari Pad” under development around 2004. Even if that’s not the case, Apple clearly invested a lot of money and effort in developing the iPad. It didn’t just inject some steroids into the iPhone OS and drop it into a tablet PC.

In contrast, Palm was clearly under the gun to deliver a smartphone platform that covered the basics. The webOS is not anywhere near feature parity with the iPhone OS, nor does it try to be. Even the Palm Pre’s most giddy proponents were always quick to call it a “good enough” phone that could appeal to people who didn’t need the iPhone’s fancier features.

Given the criticism Apple has received for delivering the iPad as a simplified platform compared to Windows 7 or Mac OS X, how is HP/Palm going to turn the webOS into a tablet OS that isn’t far more underwhelming? Seriously, all it could possibly do is run Flash content, as as the world is about to discover, that’s not really as cool as Adobe has been suggesting it will be for the last couple years.

Reply hazy, try again

But don’t just consider my opinion on things. Let’s involve Windows Enthusiast extraordinaire Lance Ulanoff, who generates a stream of opinions for PC Mag that are almost always unerringly wrong.

If you’ve forgotten who that is, let me refresh you: Ulanoff is the man who in 2003 wrote that an obscure flaw in Mac OS X Jaguar made it “just as vulnerable as Microsoft Windows” during a year that businesses suffered $55 billion in virus-related losses due to their use of Windows. In 2006 he wrote a diatribe reviling bloggers so masterfully link-baiting that John Dvorak ‘bowed in awe.’ He also served as the canary in the coal mine in 2008, warning us all about the dangers of DRM-free music (which he called the “road to ruin”). And late last year, he was among the tiny minority still willing to shill for Windows Mobile.

In a PC Mag blog posting from last October, Ulanoff consumed 978 words (17 of which were “I”) explaining why the catalog size of Apple’s iPhone App Store in comparison to Microsoft’s fledgling Marketplace for Windows Mobile didn’t matter and that nobody should concern themselves about it.

“The fascination with the absolute number [of apps available for WiMo compared to the iPhone App Store] is really nothing but a fascination,” Ulanoff wrote. It wasn’t too long afterward that Microsoft dropped its efforts to fill out the Windows Mobile catalog and simply focus on Windows Phone 7, a platform that apparently doesn’t need apps, by design.

But while Ulanoff was happy to make ridiculous excuses for the joke that is WiMo, his true love was the Palm Pre, which he hailed from its first introduction. “Step aside, iPhone,” he wrote as he gushed over the Pre at its preview debut.

Lance Ulanoff and Robbie Bach explain why library size doesn’t matter for WiMo apps vs the iPhone

Without a doubt

“With its purchase of Palm, HP is instantly back in the mobile game,” Ulanoff now writes. Actually, HP was already in the smartphone game, it just wasn’t performing very well. The company sells a variety of Windows Mobile smartphones and Pocket PC PDA/phones that look a lot like everyone else’s offerings.

What does the webOS do for HP, apart from killing another Windows Mobile licensee for Microsoft? It won’t infuse the company with brilliant hardware designs, as Palm’s weren’t all that attractive to start with. All it really does is replace Windows Mobile with webOS, a transition that didn’t even save Palm itself. So what does it do?

If webOS breaks HP from its partnership with Microsoft, the company will need to figure out how to navigate a path HP has never really tried to tread, certainly not in the consumer space. Recall that no PC maker has ever successfully left Microsoft, or really even aggressively tried to do so. Is there reason to assume that HP will do an awesome job at something it has never tried before?

The last time HP opened itself up to foreign technology in that area was when it licensed the iPod from Apple. HP didn’t really know what to do with that apart from creating “tattoos,” little plastic decals you could print from your HP printer and stick to your HP-branded iPod. Wow, innovation at work. And yet when the iPod really began to get popular, HP backed out of the deal to return to the Microsoft flock.

Handheld Computers, Windows Mobile, Smartphone, PDA, GPS Device | HP

Concentrate and ask again

“HP has the money and resources to turn around significant mobile phone hardware updates by early-to-mid 2011,” Ulanoff wrote, apparently unaware of what might be involved. Palm’s recent first quarter guidance indicated that the company would burn through roughly $200 million in the first half of 2010. That suggests HP will need to throw down another half a billion dollars just to keep its new Palm unit operating at status quo through next summer. In order to do anything dramatic, HP will have to throw even more cash on the fire.

Ulanoff also fantasizes that HP could use Palm’s webOS on its Slate PC that’s not selling, and which already runs Windows 7 and Android. When you’re not selling hardware, how many different operating systems should you be paying to support on that hardware? The answer is: why are you not selling the hardware?

If you’ve forgotten, the HP Slate PC was that clunky notebook without the keyboard that HP gave to Steve Ballmer to wave on stage at CES, shortly before Apple introduced the iPad and completely silenced all talk about whether people would be buying an expensive, inch thick screen running Windows.

It’s comical that Windows Enthusiasts all harp on the iPhone for not having a physical keyboard, and then turn around and lust after a Windows-based tablet that lacks a keyboard but demands one to navigate its desktop-style user interface. Ulanoff doesn’t offer any suggestion of why anyone would buy the HP Slate PC running webOS, or what additional costs HP might incur to make its non-selling tablet support an operating system and platform designed specifically to run on smartphones, but it’s going to be something in excess of the half billion dollar burn HP faces just to keep Palm afloat through next summer.

Of course, that’s when iPhone OS 5 comes out.

51 comments

1 liamh { 05.07.10 at 2:07 am }

$1.2 billion for a shoddy OS. That’s what this is about.

Frankly if all HP wanted was a new OS they’d have been better hiring a team of ex-Apple folk, throwing a couple of hundred million dollars at them and …ha ha.

HP are better of making ink and cheap printers.

2 worker201 { 05.07.10 at 3:08 am }

I had an iPaq back when they were extremely novel and revolutionary-ish devices. It was fun. But those days are long gone. You’re absolutely correct, there’s very little hope for HP now.

3 Mark Hernandez { 05.07.10 at 3:40 am }

Yeah, for Palm it’s the “suits” that are to be feared here — the layers of management and internal politics and turf wars which make it so you can’t produce nice things when a big corporation is at work. I feel sad for the engineers at Palm who probably all just lost their hardons at the thought of their visions, progress and skunkworks type energy being shattered by committees.

Large corporations are where great ideas go to die.

HP would actually have to make a big deal about keeping Palm isolated and powering forward for there to be any chance that this would NOT happen as expected.

4 broadbean { 05.07.10 at 5:03 am }

A few things not really fair in this piece.

1) Comparing anyone to having the ability of Steve Jobs to reverse take-over the company that bought his own and turn it into the current technology powerhouse is blatantly unfair. ;) I doubt anyone else can revolutionise multiple industries once (Apple II/Mac OS); twice (Pixar); three times (iPod); four times (iPhone); five times (iPad)…

2) You can’t expect Jon Rubinstein to easily replicate what he may or may not have done while at Apple, doing it all again at Palm. One thinks his main contribution was figuring out how to piggyback on to iTunes with the Pre… Anyway, to suggest he could do that and then one more time at hp (while not that successful at Palm) would be a big ask – not fair! :D

3) Not fair after criticising other PC, electronics and phone manufacturers for not coming up with their own solution for OS and app distribution, you now have a go at hp for actually giving it a go. Ok, there may have been better ways to do this, but buying Palm is not the worst they could do. Maybe Todd Bradley has a second calling? Anyway, hp is not lacking in technical brains. what most IT companies lack is vision and direction. hp has in the past allowed innovation to run riot, which ended up getting out of hand, but if the product and technology have little overlap with other branches, corporate synergy may not be as big an issue. Hopefully hp’s buy out gives the Palm brains trust a bit more time to come up with something worthy of a positive write-up even from DED.

5 kerryb { 05.07.10 at 5:29 am }

Once again Dan has made a good argument that is hard contest. HP is not a company I give a second thought to and outside of their printers I would never consider buying a product they make. I remember that iPod moment way back when, the Compaq merger and the companies recently CEO shift to a stable bean counter that got the company out of the red. This Palm purchase looks like another tech world “me too” moment that will only eliminate another smart phone alternative to the iPhone. Why? Because Palm had it’s shot at the market, it is a mature company not an eager start up with a vision. It’s time for the rocking chair for Palm and HP reminiscing about the good old days.

6 gctwnl { 05.07.10 at 5:32 am }

Nice summary. Indeed the chances for success are slim indeed, but there is a chance. After all, Rubinstein has shown in his NeXT and Apple days that he actually does know how to produce decent hardware, so he might be effective still. That the Palm Pre was not a big success story in that respect, is true, but that does not equate immediately to Rubinstein not having the right experience/views, and the fact that they were able to pull that off in a year is impressive. Still, just a Rubinstein is not enough, I suspect. So I agree: the chances are slim. Still better than any of the other contenders?

Windows Phone?
Google / Android?
HP / Palm?
Nokia / Intel?

Which of these is the potential best of the rest?

7 ChuckO { 05.07.10 at 5:48 am }

HP doesn’t have a lot of choices and it has absolutely NO GOOD choices. The Microsoft path has reached a dead end. Android/Chrome looks like the start of another road that will end up a dead end. So the choice is start from scratch or pick up Palm. Picking up Palm is the right decision. You get a bunch of Apple folks and a head start.

Having said that I agree with Dan’s analysis that this is going to be extraordinarily difficult to pull off. I think they would have to probably give their slate/phone platform business to Ruby to run with little interference and make a complete commitment to WebOS in that space but even there Ruby didn’t exactly make a lot of great stategic moves launching the Pre.

This just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing HP is any good at. I can’t see those HP ads on TV or in print without obsessing over why they have that weird Tim Burton inspired art direction. It seems like a strange, desperate and ill conceived try at seeming edgy and creative.

What they have to do is pretty simple. They need to release an OS on attractive devices that is so intuitive to use you don’t have to worry about the fact that you never used it before. Executing on that strategy of course is hard.

Failure’s always the most likely outcome in any meaningful endeavor though so you can’t blame them for trying.

8 iLogic { 05.07.10 at 6:34 am }

The problem is WebOS itself, it’s not sophisticated to be worth much in the long run. Why spend all this cash on Palm’s latest asset. I don’t see this as a smart move. HP perhaps will shelve WebOS and start from scratch using Palm’s resources to deliver something better, however that could take many moons to work towards. Who knows how the iPhone OS would work by that time. Grim outlook for HP / Palm I’d say.

9 TheMacAdvocate { 05.07.10 at 6:42 am }

Love the Magic 8 Ball section titles.

I hope HP has the sense to keep its tentacles from prying apart the things that reinvigorated Palm. With a little hands-off investment by HP and without the investment capital anchor from Elevation hanging around their necks, they might be able to rise into mediocrity and kill off a few Windows 7 (Series) Phones in the process. At this point, it’s about as much as they can hope for.

10 mihomeagent { 05.07.10 at 7:09 am }

Just a suggestion: Proofread it first, Dan.

[I do that a lot for every article, but then I post it late at night and end up with a typo title I can't fix without breaking the stupid WordPress URL. At least I got the site name right from the start - Dan]

11 adamk359 { 05.07.10 at 7:17 am }

It’s interesting that comparisons between HP/Palm and Apple/NeXT are arising. I kind of thought about this myself when I read about it earlier this week. Now I was much younger when Apple bought NeXT and really have no recollection of it (I was in high school at the time so other, more pressing matters [trying to be popular and not fail] pushed corporate buyouts to the back-burner) so I’m not really certain if anyone tried to buy Apple while the ship was sinking. Apple could have easily been snatched up and buried alive…never to be seen again.

So when a failing company bought out a somewhat successful (I’m not sure how successful…I know NeXT was somewhat limited to marketing its pro workstation products to animation/creative professionals) smaller company and through a series brash and risky decisions become a ridiculously huge successful company…how should we look at HP and Palm? HP is huge…but its like Microsoft…basically two 800 pound gorillas who can’t get out of each others’ way let alone getting out of their own way. It’s like they’re made for each other. HP is successful in selling junk and Microsoft is successful in writing an over-bloated cumbersome OS to be forced on that junk. So where does Palm fit in?

Apple needed a new OS desperately…as the great “Index Card” experiment of the 90s failed to really create anything groundbreaking for Apple. Even other partnerships dissolved before anything could really takeoff. Also, Apple had about 1000 different models of Macs that branched out from 1 and supposedly not even Apple execs could tell the difference between them. HP is Apple in this sense…except instead of doing anything really drastic and risky all these years…they just stuck with Windows because it suited them. For the desktop/laptop division, they will probably continue to do so. For mobile devices they may have made the breakthrough decision that Apple made in the 90s to buy NeXT and become hugely successful. Also, I highly doubt any HP exec can tell you anything about any of the 1 million different models of computers and printers they make.

Palm rose up through the ranks of mediocrity from being successful to simply “being”…and became a company to watch out for…to simply “being” again. They have a mobile OS that could perhaps provide the blank canvas that the NeXT OS provided for Apple to create OS X and iPhone OS. Will it happen overnight? No. I think when Apple bought NeXT the two companies were more in-tune with each other but even Apple’s current success took several years. HP and Palm are two completely different companies and it’s going to be on HP to actually try something different rather than stifling Palm and then turning it into a mere “…I remember way back when there were these cool hand held devices where you could make weird squiggles with a stylus and somehow they recognized them as text input. Those were the good old days.” I think it will take a very long time for HP to really realize what it is they have just purchased…and then come up with a long-term plan to revolutionize the mobile market with it. Can they do it? Will it be too little too late for both HP and Palm when iPhone OS 4 comes out? Windows Phone 7?

I foresee Windows Phone 7 being the next Zune. It’ll be bought up by consumers who either hate Apple and don’t realize their current phone is powered by something called Android or tech enthusiasts who hate Apple and are sick of the problems/limitations that Android is dealing with (which is interestingly…most of the problems Windows and Windows Mobile face today). The enthusiasts will tout it as the second coming and that it will decimate iPhone sales and make Apple go belly up when they can’t compete…and then they will quietly go back to hating Apple when none of that happens. Zune HD what now? Oh yeah that thing they nestle in with all the other generic touch devices at Best Buy while the Apple devices get their own area. Its all about marketing…and so far its still the name “iPod” that is synonymous with MP3 players…not Zune.

12 site7000 { 05.07.10 at 7:41 am }

Dan,
The more interesting story to me is who DIDN’T buy Palm. I thought Palm had a good patent portfolio for touch interface that HTC or Apple would be interested in (Apple to keep competitors at bay). What happened?

13 mailjohannes { 05.07.10 at 7:43 am }

One small point to add to the discussion.
Palm has another asset thats probably of value: its patent portfolio.

One ‘fact’: HP will of course fire Jon Rubinstein if he doesn’t leave himself.

J.

14 tundraboy { 05.07.10 at 7:54 am }

I don’t even know this Ulanoff fellow but I hate him already. :-)

15 Joey { 05.07.10 at 10:07 am }

Dan, your article is the type panicked and frustrated Apple lovers write whenever they see something that might dethrone their beloved Apple crap. Go ahead and remove this comment, but fact is, your article is very subjective and you pulled no punches to make your point.

p.s. Stop comparing every other vendor to Apple and do the analysis without prior biases. You might have a better article and more level-headed arguments.

[Your comment is the kind of panicked and frustrated thing that gets posted anytime I present an opinion. But if you dial back a year or two and read my previous opinions, they have a pretty great track record for being accurate.

And the thing is, there is very little comparison between HP/Palm and the iPhone in this article. I outlined what I thought of the HP/Palm merger, which is much less optimistic than if either a viable mobile company had bought the webOS, or something more compatible, or something that basically made sense. Unless you can explain why HP+Palm is a great idea, using facts rather than fantasy, your scolding seems pretty weak.

And of course my article is subjective: it's my opinion. The thing is, I'm often right because I say what I think is the case, rather than trying to support some opinion of my employers or a firm I'm being paid to represent. So really, I'm more objective than most tech writers.

I even presented the alternative opinion of a wildly optimistic PC Mag writer, along with why I think he's wrong and failing to see facts. His take was largely emotional advocacy - he didn't throw out any real facts at all, just hopes that Palm will take down Apple using HP's money.

Further, how would I profile the potential for Palm without considering the competitive landscape, in which Apple is smoking everyone else? And why would I want to pull punches in making a point? - Dan]

16 ChuckO { 05.07.10 at 10:08 am }

How can you blame HP for buying Palm? WebOS has it’s problems but to get out what they did in the space of time they did it in is pretty impressive. I’d take a chance and hire that team. This was a smart move. They’ve already failed. Apple recognized the mobile shift and delivered the strategy before anybody else now way late HP see’s the writing on the wall. They can’t develop an OS in house. Staying the course means getting out of hardware eventually, failing with WebOS means getting out of hardware eventually. They have no choice but to try this.

Predicting failure is easy. Failures a given. HP’s back’s against the wall, better to waste the billion on trying this than to give up and watch it go down the drain with your market share.

[Guessing failure is easy; I was attempting to explain why Palm and HP are unlikely to deliver the webOS tablets real soon now that everyone is blindly fantasizing about. - Dan ]

17 pa { 05.07.10 at 10:09 am }

“What does HP bring to the table? It has no ability to create desirable mobile hardware (despite trying for a decade), no experience in successfully managing a software platform (outside of servers), and no track record in handling mergers that were anything more than layoff bloodbaths.

What does Palm offer? A smartphone software platform it hastily developed in the course of about year in 2008 and then tainted with the stink of failure in 2009. HP should have been able to whip that together itself. ”

A reasonable person might say, Palm brings to the table ability to create desirable mobile hardware, and experience in successfully managing a software platform. As you say, there were problems with launch, as well as the network, and to some extent the hardware. These we due to a lack of leverage and clout which HP can bring to the table. But there was also an issue of timing. Palm rushed the device and it’s launch coinciding with a new iPad model was evidence of a desperate company. HP brings money, enterprise expertise, and clout in negotiations with carriers. It can also provide the means to create all the back-end infrastructure a successful mobile device requires nowadays. All this will take time, of course. But to do it right there are no other options because neither Android nor Windows Mobile 7 allow the sort of end-to-end package that a manufacturer can control, as Apple does with the iPhone, MobileMe, iTunes, App Store, push notification, etc.

But you are right. HP/Palm have to work four times as fast as Apple to improve the chances of WebOS devices in this market to be able to make an impact within a one to two year time frame. That is very unlikely to happen, although that’s what people said about Apple in 1997. However it took Apple 10 years to convince all the skeptics. So, HP may just wish to try and figure out the next paradigm in computing and work toward putting all the pieces together. And you are absolutely right that this adventure will cost HP dearly. Actually Palm spends $300 million a quarter just to exist. And so the cost to HP will double by next year. HP has definitely overpaid by 4x. Just think about what kind of market share Palm has to achieve facing such fierce competition as is out there, just for HP to break even.

18 pa { 05.07.10 at 10:13 am }

@Mark Hernandez,

For your information, Apple has twice the market cap as HP.

19 sanjayp { 05.07.10 at 10:20 am }

It will be good for HP in Asia — good enough is what they are looking for. It will be useless in the West.

20 pa { 05.07.10 at 10:25 am }

@site7000, sorry to butt in. But HTC decided to pay license fees to Microsoft instead (to cover alleged Android infringements), which possibly might have something to do with the Apple lawsuit.

21 JohnWatkins { 05.07.10 at 11:00 am }

@pa,
Market cap != size, attitude, or nimbleness.
HP has 304,000 FT employees
Apple has 34,300.
Since apple has twice the market cap and 1/10 the employees, I guess that makes Apple about 20 times more efficient and nimble!

22 Maniac { 05.07.10 at 11:59 am }

“It’s comical that Windows Enthusiasts all harp on the iPhone for not having a physical keyboard, and then turn around and lust after a Windows-based tablet…”

LOL. Windows users have been trained to run crapware on crappy hardware and love it. Windows tablets gave them the same crapware, a different form factor, and vastly worse experience. So of course they loved it.

Everything Microsoft does is and nearly always has been a reaction to Apple. Reactions are tactics, not strategy. Thus, Microsoft has no strategy, and that’s why they keep killing off dead-end products that have no future potential (or re-naming them to make it look like “innovation” is happening.)

23 David Dennis { 05.07.10 at 12:05 pm }

The consensus among WebOS reviewers seemed to me to be that they got the software right but the hardware wrong. I bought a Pre and was an early developer. It took me no time at all to see that I hated the hardware – that keyboard was impossible to type on and battery life was horrifyingly bad, but many aspects of the software were nicely done, especially the multitasking. (Of course multitasking hurts battery life but they had a battery recall so the problem was not exclusively that).

What WebOS brings to the table is the only true multitasking environment for a phone. This seems like something that may be overkill for a phone, but would be really helpful for a tablet. Of course with task switching coming to iPhone shortly the advantage might not be all that great, but there are still cool things, like better chat clients, you could do with genuine multitasking.

If HP could build more solid hardware, and John Rubenstein’s team could continue refining the software, they might come up with something pretty nice in year or two. In the mean time, launch a touch screen only version of what they already have and I think market share will increase.

Will it beat the extraordinary refinement of Apple devices? No. Will it be an interesting alternative for people who hate Apple or loathe AT&T? Sure.

Overall, I have to say that I much preferred Palm’s more elegant software to the clunky Droid. If it is promoted better and if the screen resolution is increased to match the Droid and new iPhone, I see a promising long-term future.

Oh, you may think iPhone will take over the US market, but I don’t think so because of Verizon. Customers love Verizon service and phone makers hate Verizon’s tyrannical policies that you have so frequently exposed. So I see iPhone staying with AT&T and Verizon needing fresh Palm and Android devices to compete.

As long as that’s true, both Android and Palm have a shot even though they are visibly inferior to iPhone in all respects.

There’s one other way I might put this. What should HP do? I can almost write your article for you in any case:

HP does nothing: “They are a dinosaur trying to compete using the already outdated and pathetic Windows 7, poorly suited to any type of tablet …”

HP supports Android: “They are a dinosaur trying to compete with a laughable app store with inconsistent requirements and a poor design specification that has not yet created one successful product.”

HP supports Palm: “Hmm, they probably can’t integrate the two companies.”

All three of those are true. Which seems to have the least bad chance? I would say the last one.

In all honesty, I’d say HP/Palm is worth a try and the cultural differences will most likely be less difficult to resolve than those with the Chinese cellphone makers who would have otherwise won.

D

24 Joey { 05.07.10 at 12:27 pm }

Dan, what you’re arguing is called determinism in other fields. You’re arguing an outcome based on inconsistent and incomplete data and convincing yourself that you are right. The opposite of determinism is called contingency and contingency allows for any outcome. I favor contingency because no matter how learned I think I am (and you do too, based on your comment on past predictions), we just can’t tell because every situation is different.

[Well any sort of journalism or opinion on the future will require some sort of forward anticipation that by definition will lack perfect omniscience. However, by comparing the results of similar efforts, we can make pretty good predictions about what might happen. I mentioned a couple bad mergers and cited Apple/NeXT as one that worked pretty well. How many really successful tech mergers can you name? How many involve a failing company that couldn't sell its product, and a huge mega-corp that was also failing in the same category, while both were competing against very strong competitors? You can label it, but that doesn't make my logic any less convincing - Dan ]

To address a few points.

1-Some people above wrote that webOS is crappy. Wonder where they got that from. Many reviewers from different sources all hailed webOS as the best mobile OS on the market. The quality of the product has nothing to do with its sales and marketing success.

[I don't hear lots of technical people or developers praising webOS as is; I've heard a lot of anti-Apple pundits whipped up in a frenzy of excitement that they didn't quite understand. Certainly, if I were tasked with making an iPhone competitor in 2008, I would have worked to deliver a web-based product like webOS. But that doesn't mean it is competitive, or delivered well, or updated sufficiently, or that it will prosper under the corporate control of HP.]

2-People forget that the current CEO of HP was the CEO of Palm, and that in private briefings with JL Gasse, he shared a very good understanding of the issues affecting Palm. Bradley gets Palm. He’s not playing the venture capital game or being sold illusions. He knows on a personal level what the issues are. Ruby is an HP alumni. Will the culture be so hard to mesh?

[That's interesting. Todd Bradley was the CEO of Palm and now he's the "executive vice president of HP’s Personal Systems Group, a $42 billion annual revenue business that includes personal computers, mobile devices, technical workstations, personal storage solutions and Internet services." (HP's CEO is Mark Hurd).

HOWEVER, Bradley has been at HP since 2005, meaning that his commonality with Palm was the Old Palm that was a clear failure, not the New Palm that created the Pre/webOS under CEOs Colligan (Mr. Apple "won't just walk in") and Rubinstein. So it's like Apple buying NeXT in 1996 and then putting it under the control of GL Gassee. Good luck making that work! - Dan]

25 salvo.dan { 05.07.10 at 3:20 pm }

It’s probably just a fundraiser.
“Hey Microsoft, we have our own OS! (Two if you include the neglected BeOS) Give us better OEM deals on Windows or we’ll stop using it.”
I wouldn’t expect a behemoth like HP to turn around it’s corporate culture that quickly, They will still be suckling from the Microsoft Nipple for years to come.

Even if they do turn around the company in the short term, one bad quarter following the new tack and Ultra-Conservative Board turns the ship back towards the Iceberg of Conformity.

26 Derek Currie { 05.07.10 at 3:32 pm }

Dan, your coverage of the Ulanoff experience gave me the Laugh of the Day. My neighbors must think I’ve gone crazy, again. Lately, I’ve been wondering who is meaner to lame brain TechTard pundits, you or me. It’s you. You win! (Background: Dan and I were both generals in the Computer Warz on Usenet. That’s where we learned what it took to tear trolls to shreds. Our training from those bad-old-days set the tone for a lot of our contemporary rhetoric. ;-)

With the computer community’s growing emphasis on moving to HTML5, I see HP’s biggest problem with WebOS being the required update to the new Web standards. I seriously doubt they are up to the task. Instead I see some WebOS enabled thingy or other hitting the streets being hobbled by its inability to render HTML5 web pages or use HTML5 enabled Web apps.

The fact is that HP have been writing crummy code for decades. They were slammed back in the early 1990s for barely working, buggy, lazy printer drivers. How did HP respond? By continuing to write barely working, buggy, lazy printer drivers. It is highly improbable that they’ll suddenly GAS about their software having bought Palm’s WebOS.

Personally, I’d like HP to spin off all of Palm’s software into Open Source projects. That is probably the only way they’ll progress into modernity.

Secretly, I’m being extremely selfish in the above statement because I’m a Graffiti addict, having owned, used and admired a Palm IIIc every day of my life since 2003. Losing what amounts to the only reliable and humane handwriting recognition system I’ve ever encountered, really bothers me. I’d like to be able to use Graffiti on any and all touch devices via a compatible stylus, such as the Pogo.

Another problem with WebOS is that it relies on what has turned out to be insecure web technology. At this point in time I personally consider what we call ‘JavaScript’ to be a curse on the entire Internet community. More properly it is called ‘ECMAScript’ mainly because of it having to incorporate a lot of added garbage calls perpetrated by Microsoft’s unimaginatively named ‘JScript’. I’d rather have JavaScript entirely scrapped as a language in favor of yet another attempt and a scripting language that is safe and secure for web users. Don’t hold your breath. IOW, WebOS is no doubt going to have a lot of security problems if it ever actually catches on with developers.

Ideally, WebOS devices will be another source of competition for Apple, which would be a good thing. Apple is never better than when it has a good competitor upon whom to improve. ;-)

27 David Dennis { 05.07.10 at 3:50 pm }

Derek, that’s quite an interesting post, but I’m curious about one thing.

Since PalmOS uses WebKit, and WebKit is continuously updated by Apple, wouldn’t it be fairly straightforward to drop the latest WebKit version into PalmOS and then have a perfectly operational HTML5 system?

I think their biggest problem is going to be attracting developers to their platform, and keeping it up to date to compete with whatever Apple creates.

I will admit that I have always wondered why HP printer drivers are bigger than entire operating system releases were only a few years ago …

D

28 Derek Currie { 05.07.10 at 4:00 pm }

Thanks for hitting me over the head David. My knowledge of WebOS is entirely hearsay. If, ideally, an HTML5 enabled version of WebKit could be dropped into WebOS, that would be the solution to my quandary about it keeping up with modernity. From my experience interacting with the folks over at OmniGroup regarding their OmniWeb brower, I know it can actually be a big PITA adjusting a web browser to a new version of WebKit. I would suspect the same would be true of WebOS. But perhaps not! I know a lot of people who would very much like WebOS to be a success. And why not!

29 David Dennis { 05.07.10 at 4:26 pm }

Oh, I am sure it is an enormous pain and requires considerable work. In fact, I noticed that the WebKit in the Palm Pre was significantly behind the version in my iPhone.

My point, however, is that it should be possible to keep up. Not that it would not be difficult and painful at times, but that it at least should be possible.

The whole idea of WebOS is that it’s based on HTML5 standards, including CSS animation, local storage, etc. Basically if you write a WebOS application, it’s a web page with HTML and CSS using their Mojo framework. I found Mojo surprisingly difficult to learn – it is fully object oriented and a lot different from what I’m used to in JavaScript. I was able to master it, but a lot of things, such as audio, don’t work very well.

I think there is now a C Game-oriented API for action/3D game developers and at least some of the big guns have ported them to the platform.

I never really liked Palm’s system that much and so I am now back to writing iPad apps. I really love iPad and I just hope (most likely in vain) that apps will remain at least somewhat discoverable.

D

(My first iPad app, Bible Trivia HD, was just approved! Woohoo! Let’s hope it does well. Trivia HD, a general Trivia game, is coming.)

30 Nathan { 05.07.10 at 4:55 pm }

Joey,

You are correct to mention determinism. Every cause can be explained by an effect; and, as humans, we are limited in our ability to measure or observe all causes. However, what Dan is doing is using sound and valid combinations of inductive and deductive reasoning to link causes and effects. We here at the roughly drafted have seen Dan time and time again use reasoning to accurately predict technological outcomes and theories for several years now.

From your points:

1) “The quality of the product has nothing to do with its sales and marketing success.”
Do you have any examples of this? If a quality product, better quality than its competitors (combination of technology and price), does not sell well, then the most attributable reason is the marketing. The consumers simply did not know it existed. If a well marketed product does not sell, then obviously it’s because the competitors’ products were a better quality. Sales, quality, and marketing are all strongly related.

2)”JL Gasse knows on a personal level what the issues are.”
Then why has HP been so ineffective in entering the mobile market? It is possible that some great synergy will occur from this merger. However, as a determinist, the best predictor of future events is past events. From the history that Dan outlined of other similar mergers and the individual histories of the two companies, synergy is unlikely; not impossible, just unlikely.

31 broadbean { 05.07.10 at 6:37 pm }

hp bought Palm for webOS and BeOS so they could revolutionize their printer UI and drivers.

If only! ;)

32 addicted44 { 05.07.10 at 7:01 pm }

I think bringing in Compaq and the iPod into the picture is not a good idea. Most of those tragic decisions were made by that terrible CEO, Carly Fiona (who, incidentally is running for office in your home state of CA, and was endorsed by Sarah Palin. Now if that latter fact doesn’t tell you enough about how terrible she really is, nothing will).

Since Mark Hurd has become VP, HP has done an excellent job of improving itself. This Palm (WebOS) purchase in itself is an example of this.

While I dont think they will be able to compete against Apple, they will at least get a Zune like second place, which in this growing market should be a decent revenue source.

But, more importantly, I think HP has a huge opportunity of deploying WebOS on things like touchscreen interfaces on their printers whose software (as you correctly state) is terrible as it stands.

I would also disagree that WebOS cannot scale (although they will have to modify the card paradigm a bit). Things like the notification bar at the bottom are pretty good ideas, which certainly would make its transition to a bigger form factor a good one.

33 FreeRange { 05.07.10 at 10:01 pm }

The truth of the matter is that the likes of HP, Dell, Gateway, and their ilk are intellectually crippled by their decades long addiction to MSFT’s crappy OS’s, and their failure to control their own destiny and think outside the box. In the PC arena they are the laziest of companies that have been sucking on the teet of MSFT for so long that they have plunged themselves into a commodity quagmire that they can’t possibly escape. Just look at how little a company like Dell spends on R&D – its next to nothing – and its also the wrong R&D. The reason Apple has been successful is that they provide great hardware and software integration across an entire ecosystem of products, services and management applications for our digital lives. All within exceptionally well designed packages that are incredibly easy to use, and which delight their users like no other company in history has been able to achieve. Apple’s dedication to providing a superior user experience, mixed with brilliantly innovative applications of technology is not something these clowns can possibly replicate. And simply adding the Palm line and webOS only provides about 1% of the equation for HP.

As for the clown fish Joe’s posts above, seriously dude, you really need to get out more and get yourself an education. Your pseudo-intellectualism is really pretty laughable…

34 cy_starkman { 05.07.10 at 10:14 pm }

Hi Daniel,

An accurate analysis of the situation, always enjoy the fresh air of your work after the trench grind elsewhere.

I would counter though your assessment of compaq/hp’s merger. Hp didn’t wreck compaq, compaq wrecked hp. Just as Compaq destroyed digital’s alpha chip and os. it wasn’t hp that did that.

You kind of counter yourself on the subject by saying hp got a brand to slap onto junk. That’s because compaq was junk not because hp made junk and wanted to brand it.

The legacy that is compaq is still palatable in hp today, an off flavour with a mild stink.

Another company marred by a merger has been nvidia which was injured by ingesting 3dfx and it’s power hungry and bulky graphics cards and non Opengl approach. It is still trying to recover.

None of this changes your conclusions, but I felt it important to voice the clarification.

35 ericdano { 05.07.10 at 10:33 pm }

I miss the alpha processor. It is a shame it got killed. It was way better than Intels offerings at the time. Given a proper chance, it might have been a real contender

36 Imapolicecar { 05.08.10 at 4:11 am }

@liamh

“HP are better of making ink and cheap printers.”

Cheap? Wow! In Europe HP are known as ‘Highly Priced’

37 Berend Schotanus { 05.08.10 at 4:22 am }

Back in 1975, Steve Wozniak offered his PC design that later would become Apple I to his employer, HP before starting his own private enterprise. HP just didn’t recognize the opportunity a personal computer would be. With hindsight all parties agree that raising the personal computer within the HP company boundaries never would have worked.
So, if HP was a dull company in 1975, how could it not be a dull company in 2010. From that point of view I agree with every word you wrote.

From a slightly different perspective however I do not at all agree with it. That other perspective is the complete transformation that Apple is igniting over the computer industry, reshaping it from a horizontally integrated model (one OS for devices of many different vendors) to a vertically integrated model (computer vendor integrates hardware and software).
In the ecosystem Apple is shaping for itself it does neither want nor need a 100% market share. With a 100% market share it would blow itself up in a Microsoft way due to anti-monopolist legislation. I think even a 70% for iPods is slightly high, the sweet-spot must be 49%.
So how do you achieve a 49% market share when you are simply the best. The answer is: by giving away competitive opportunities and that is exactly what Apple does.
Look at the investments Apple made in technologies like WebKit, HTML5, OpenCL, GCD, and so on… just to make them open standards available to anyone. I think WebKit is a good example. Before WebKit mobile browsing was just a theoretical option. When Apple released the iPhone, they made WebKit available to Nokia, Android and others and suddenly web browsing became available on many phones, maybe not as good as the iPhone but far, far better than the old devices used to be. To Apples great benefit because now they have absolutely credible defense against Adobes insane monopoly accusations.
Same for HTML5 which is a powerful computing platform in itself, but open, denying anyone to monopolize the world. Exit Windows, exit Flash.

And here’s the cool part of HP+WebOS: they are adapting the Apple industry model. They are giving up the old dream of a horizontally organized market with 100% market share for a proprietary OS. They will build commodity devices based upon standards available to anyone. They will adapt coolness because these standards were originally designed by Apple, even when nobody remembers that anymore.
They will make a living building dull devices for dull people, just like they have always done. They will share 51% of store shelf space with dozens of vendors doing the exact same thing. Those devices will not be as good as Apples but they will way outperform anything available now.
It is a matter of perspective what you call a “failure”. If being on the dull 51% of shelf space is to be considered a failure, go ahead. But don’t forget to mention the market reform that meanwhile happened as a great success.

[That's an interesting point, and undermines the current assumption of most pundits that there will eventually be a single "Windows" of smartphones, whether Android or WiMo or Symbian. Palm itself tried to pull that off in licensing the Palm OS in 2000 (to Symbol, Sony, Kyocera, Samsung, Garmin and others), which marked the end of its vertically integrated good products and the beginning of its decline into immobile mediocracy. - Dan]

38 ChuckO { 05.08.10 at 4:33 am }

[Guessing failure is easy; I was attempting to explain why Palm and HP are unlikely to deliver the webOS tablets real soon now that everyone is blindly fantasizing about. - Dan ]

To me the value in you articles isn’t wether your right or not in your predictions. I personally get so sick of this whole prognosticator business in tech writing. The problem with a lot of the dickheads you write about isn’t that there wrong it’s that there’s no thought process or logic it’s just expecting the same outcomes to continually occur: “Microsoft will win because they have the cash”. Wether your right or not there’s value in the level of analysis you provide as it’s based on some actual thought and knowledge.

39 ShabbaRanks { 05.08.10 at 4:53 am }

Dan,

I simply find this article wrong in so many ways. HP are undoubtedly the best manufacturer of printers, PCs, USB memory sticks, Home servers, Media PCs ever. I have actually used one of their printers once and it struck me dumb with awe.
Also… the Palm Pre was magic. WebOS was clearly the way to go and the hardware can now be improved upon by HP who, as I’ve previously said, make hardware.
I can’t believe you were so opinionated in your article. The opposite of opinionated is not opinionated and you should do more of that.

I hope I’ve made myself clear.

[My recent experiences with HP software include a multifunction copier/printer that will not remain available via its WIFI for more than a week, needs to be restarted every time I want to print something, can't scan to networked PCs as its supposed to, can't load paper correctly most of the time, and has obtuse printing software that weighs in a few GB. I am not struck with awe.

Also, I have purchased fleets of HP laptops only to find that they can't be upgraded to a larger HD. They're limited by firmware to the largest drive they shipped with. There were also a variety of other problems, but that's outrageous enough to never buy HP PCs again.

Have you seen or used an HP smartphone or PDA? When you do, you'll lose your faith that the company can improve upon the Pre. - Dan]

40 ShabbaRanks { 05.08.10 at 5:00 am }

Oh, by the way. The CEO of Apple, Mrs Brady the old lady, has a long history of being an old lady and is able to further understand the plight of other old ladies. Due to this she is clear with her advice that “you should never try to learn from history, it will only repeat itself.”

41 Marin Balabanov { 05.08.10 at 7:13 am }

Great article! Based on HP’s and Palm’s history all your analyses are well argumented and plausible. I know that the hardware quality on some HP products has been bad. The iPaqs had a good build quality but were encumbered by WindowsMobile/PocketPC. Palm’s Pre is not as bad as you paint it, but it does require a lot of improvements. Pre’s main problem was the subpar hardware. So at a face value the combination HP/Palm is a good one.

I share Derek Currie’s hope that Apple will have some form of viable competition. Apple strives in a competitive environment because it uses the quality of its products to compete and not volume (HP), corporate dependency (Blackberry) or contractual tricks (Microsoft).
In the (admittedly) theoretical case that HP really does manage to produce a good WebOS product that has market success, we all would profit from it. Apple could have a viable contender and try even harder.

Who else can compete with Apple?

Microsoft has lost all hope of competing due to its fragmented strategy (WinMob 6.5, Windows Phone 7 and Kin… really?). Blackberry is doing its best to shoehorn touchscreen onto its devices in a decidedly unintuitive manner. I am surprised at Nokia’s deadend strategy of producing multiple variants of its Symbian OS (touch and keyboard) and its Maemo/Meego in parallel. This leaves only Android, which is still encumbered by the fact that Google produces the OS, someone else produces the hardware and most Androids are sold only by the carriers. This does not allow Google to provide OS updates to most of its customers.

Dan, for once I hope you are wrong with your prediction or that someone at HP actually learned from Apple’s success. Perhaps simply by posting your prediction you have already changed the future :-)

42 Mike { 05.08.10 at 9:15 am }

While no one else now appears to be able to compete with Apple, there’s a good reason for that. They’re judged to be the best in their respective industries. If some other company was the best and Apple got lazy, then we’d probably be rooting for that company to do well. But as it is, the world appears to have few visionaries like Steve Jobs and a talented team that can focus on one thing at a time and do it extremely well.

Maybe we can learn something from this obsession about focus in our culture of multi-tasking (e.g. driving while talking, texting while driving, even listening to music while typing, etc.). And hopefully some other visionary will come along, but unfortunately unless it’s a startup all the current players seem to be rather complacent. So the way I see it is that this company that competes with Apple will have to be similar enough not to be currently in a market where Apple competes, but has a operating system flexible enough to be adapted to multiple uses like Apple’s (Apple TV, iPhone, iPod, Macbook). When some company has a system that flexible, then I’ll be impressed. Until then, I suppose I’ll work for Apple and buy their products, not because they forced me, but simply because they’re the best.

43 Can HP & Palm take on the iPhone? — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 05.08.10 at 2:05 pm }

[...] What will HP do with Palm’s webOS? Most likely: fail [...]

44 menk { 05.08.10 at 2:13 pm }

HP will inevitably fail with the Palm acquisition. The quality of the iPAQ is indicative of a company whose approach is “good enough” as opposed to “insanely great”.

Only around 10% of the HP employees will use an iPAQ despite being provided them for free. most employees opt for other windows mobile platforms (also free) where as at least 5% of the folks there use iPhones even though they must pay them themselves.

The hardware product quality of HP products is only sufficient to equal the poor quality offered by Dell and other PC bottom feeders.

Finally the HP is well known to skimp on R&D leaving products and technologies once leaders in the marketplace to slowly stagnate and become followers as opposed to leaders.

The ultimate bullet will be HP’s ego driven and flawed branding strategy. I can guarantee that HP will kill the Palm brand as fast as possible and name the devices some compelling like HP iPaq II.

45 Joey { 05.08.10 at 7:50 pm }

I’d like to know where I wrote that GL gasse would be working under the Palm /HP combo? That might explain why a lot of my arguments are deformed and stuff written by other people here makes no business sense. All this is is puffery by Pro Mac people trying to find issues with competitors.

Someone wrote that sales are invariably an indication of quality. If that’s the case, does that mean that earlier models of the Apple computers were inherently inferior to Microsoft and OEM offerings? Someone should fire all the MBAs of the world. There’s a new theorem about product and sales and everything written before that was wrong. Quality determines sales.

The problem with this particular article and many of the comments here is that they make assumptions and guesses about things they just don’t don’t know.

The comment that webOS cannot support HTML5 or that Apple is the driver of HTML5 made me laugh.

It’s not called webOS for nothing. And about the quality of the product, again, I urge people to read reviews from Tech Crunch, Engadget, ArsTechnica, Gizmodo, Wired, PCWorld, CNet, ZDNet and more. Then search for the many industry awards both the OS and the phone got in 2009. Awards, competing products from Nokia and Android did not earn.

Unlike places like MacDailyNews this site and commentors actually try to sound smart and all, but the shine is off. Every single article that did not praise the author or his view got a “rectifying” reply promptly as if to reassert the authority of the writer and his message. At least MacDailyNews don’t hide their biases in fancy and elaborate talks. They just tell you they’re over the top and completely biased and uninformed.

46 pa { 05.09.10 at 4:40 pm }

@ JohnWatkins [21]

true

47 mrBitch { 05.09.10 at 10:14 pm }

@ Joey, RE: ” .. The problem with this particular article and many of the comments here is that they make assumptions and guesses about things they just don’t don’t know.”

You mean like when you made the (wrong) comment :
” .. People forget that the current CEO of HP was the CEO of Palm.. ”

You meant to include your own incorrect comments as an example?

48 SteveS { 05.11.10 at 2:13 pm }

I don’t have much hope for HP, but for different reasons. I don’t believe the market supports yet another player in the smartphone market. Nokia has much of the foreign market, RIM has the US business market, consumers are now upgrading to smartphones and to date, Apple has enjoyed the lion’s share of this growth. Android is essentially just replacing Windows mobile marketshare in a 1:1 fashion. One could argue that WebOS is better than Android OS, but that doesn’t seem to matter much. For the consumer market, there is the iPhone and then there’s “everything else” with Android gaining share in the “everything else” market.

At the same time, HP is smart enough to understand that both the Windows Mobile and the Android market is a race for the bottom. HP can’t control the OS no matter which one it chooses and they haven’t demonstrated the ability to produce anything even remotely compelling from a hardware perspective. Likewise, they could never compete favorably with the likes of HTC much less Motorola in either the Android or Windows mobile markets.

Instead, HP sees from Apple’s lead that the real profit comes from owning the entire platform. The WebOS positions HP with a reasonable chance, but they’ll have to execute much better than Palm did. There’s no evidence to suggest Palm could have hung in much longer, even if they had deeper pockets. HP did acquire a nice patent portfolio. If they come out with compelling devices based on WebOS in addition to making a much better SDK, they may have a fighting chance. I just don’t see anything in HP’s history to suggest they are capable of it.

49 uthne { 05.18.10 at 3:55 pm }

HP presented their slab –sorry ‘slate’ the day before the preview of the iPad. The thing has not crossed my mind since. I did a thorough search of the net, but I just can’t find any real information about it, no screenshots or videos showing the UI (except the embarrassing scene with Balmy trying hard ‘not really’ showing the UI).
HP’s own website only offer to sign up for e-mailed information and a video called “HP Slate run all of the internet” which then obviously is the ability to run Flash.
Is it all just a HP-dream? Did they realize it could not run Windows 7 Home Edition with their useless Touchsmart UI on top?
Did they buy Palm/webOS in a desperate attempt to put an OS on their inch thick slab –sorry, slate.

50 uthne { 05.25.10 at 9:10 am }

Elizabeth Woyke, Forbes.com:

…”At least one major chip maker says that a number of tablets, netbooks and smartbooks originally designed to compete with the iPad have been pushed back to next year.” …
…”Some of these adjustments are already public. HP’s ‘Slate’ tablet, first touted in January, is being reworked to accommodate HP’s April acquisition of Palm”…

51 Why Microsoft 8 doesn’t matter — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.15.11 at 10:31 am }

[...] Why Windows 7 on Netbooks Won’t Save Microsoft Windows Phone 7: Microsoft’s third failed attempt to be Apple What will HP do with Palm’s webOS? Most likely: fail [...]

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