August 19th, 2011
Daniel Eran Dilger
Here’s some choice examples of why you can’t believe everything companies or pundits proclaim about the prospects of their products.
HP webOS: Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion
Mark Hurd, then CEO HP, 2010: “We didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business.”
HP PR team, immediately afterward: “When we look at the market, we see an array of interconnected devices, including tablets, printers, and of course, smartphones. We believe webOS can become the backbone for many of HP’s small form factor devices, and we expect to expand webOS’s footprint beyond just the smartphone market, all while leveraging our financial strength, scale, and global reach to grow in smartphones.”
Sometimes when companies say they are fully committed to something, it’s only because not saying that would be expensive. We have plenty of examples of firms who said they were behind something for the long haul, only to cut and run a few months later. HP tried hard to make its webOS strategy work, but trying hard is not always enough.
When your competitor is moving as fast as Apple has been, you don’t have time to show up to the party a year late and begin pushing out half finished hardware representing some interesting ideas.
HP was skating to the puck where it had been when it considered buying Palm last year. It did not appear to have a firm grasp on where the puck was headed, how fast it was headed there, and how expensive it would be for a big, old company to skate into position in front of it.
Interestingly, the HP TouchPad was on the market just hours longer than the short lived Microsoft KIN.
Speaking of failure: Microsoft Zune, KIN, Windows Phone 7
Mike Elgan wrote in Computerworld last fall  that Microsoft’s Zune “scares Apple to the core,” and announced that Microsoft would “leverage the collective power of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Soapbox (Microsoft’s new ‘YouTube killer’) and the Xbox 360” to push Zune adoption. At the time I observed, “What a celebration of half decade old decrepitude and three new but clearly dismal failures!”
I didn’t just hope the Zune would bomb, I spelled out why, over and over, like a play-by-play of the Hindenburg. A lot of PC enthusiasts wrote glowing things about Microsoft’s future prospects based on its past accomplishments in a very different competitive environment. Let me be the first to say that the success Apple has had with iPod, iPhone and iPad will stop abruptly as soon as the company stops doing what made it successful and starts doing things that make no sense.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, what made it successful in the 1990s was its ownership of a proprietary layer of middleware that enabled it to tax all the PC hardware being sold on Earth. It never laid out a convincing business plan showing how its Zune or Windows Mobile/Phone 7 was going to replicate such serendipity given that both would actually face competition in an open market.
Strike 3: Why Zune will Bomb this Winter 2006
Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing 2007
Zune Sales Still In the Toilet 2008
Will Nokia Rescue Microsoft’s Zune? Haha No 2008
From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD 2009
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft’s third failed attempt to be Apple 2010
Zune 2: How Microsoft will slaughter Windows Phone 7 using Nokia 2011
I have exactly what you want, even if you want something else: RIM BlackBerry Playbook
People criticize decisions made at Apple to limit the scope and range of their products. However, it’s far worse to promise to be all things to everyone. RIM announced new versions of the PlayBook for basically every mobile standard that exists, but then couldn’t deliver them (or the market decided it didn’t want them). In contrast, Apple sold one model of GSM iPhone for a year, then a GSM-3G version for another nearly three years, very successfully.
Asked why the PlayBook was designed to be 7 inches, [RIM co-CEO] Mike Lazaridis replied, “it’s just the perfect size,” before also acknowledging, “we have plans for different sizes.”
Third time’s not the charm: Android 3.0 Honeycomb
And finally, a note to Google: When you copy somebody’s intellectual property, don’t also copy their failed business model.
Android hype vehicle set to crash in 2010 2010
Microsoft frets Google’s Nexus One will suffer Zune’s failure 2010
Major developer turns attention to Google’s Android 2010
Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 2011
Google’s acquisition of Motorola set to doom Android, Chrome OS 2011