HP: A Bunch of Quitters

An open letter to HP regarding the announcements of Aug. 18, 2011

Dear HP,

I have to say I'm really quite surprised with all the news you gave us yesterday; from axing webOS device development, to trying to get rid of your PC business group, and lastly acquiring some little known company for what many see as a whole lot of money for little real value. People are calling this your "IBM moment", basically saying no more catering to consumers and just targeting the enterprise workspace. Oh, except we consumers can still buy your crappy printers, which are still too difficult to setup, then pay exorbitant amounts of money on ink every other week. Thanks for that, by the way.

As a big webOS fan, and part time developer I was angered by this. And, after a night to let this all sink in, I'm even more angry. HP, a company that I once thought as a hallmark of the Silicon Valley, a success story of innovation, and ingenuity just plain quit. But you didn't quit after giving a valiant effort in the personal/mobile computing area, you quit after a year. You quit 6 months after making your first announcement of your first wave of new devices. You quit after releasing all of 2 products. You quit without trying. What happened to "doubling down" on webOS? What happened to a vision of webOS on printers, computers, and cell phones and tablets? You had to know when entering the market that you weren't going to step up to the plate and hit a homerun your first at bat.

It's too easy to see where you went wrong in all this; an announcement in February for products that didn't launch for months, or in the case of the Pre3, maybe ever, while at the same time having your CEO go around talking about how product launches will be faster and available weeks after announcement.  Your advertising, though better than Palm's (which isn't saying much), was still weak. Russel Brand? That chick from Glee? You failed to show the average consumer what webOS was, and what it's strengths were. You fulfilled part of the promise of getting webOS into more sales outlets, but then there was hardly anyone trained to show off webOS, and demo devices were either under a locked display, or just not setup, and not updated to 3.0.2. I bought my TouchPad without being able to put my hands on one first. And for all  your clout as being the world's #1 PC manufacturer you couldn't bring in big name developers to write apps for it. Don't get me wrong, we have some killer webOS developers, but the general public wants Netflix, they want document editing (another failed promise) and they want rich games.

What disappointed me most though about yesterday's announcement were the stories I heard coming from the employees within the webOS group. Of them finding out the news the same way everyone else did. Imagine the embarrassment and hurt one developer relations person had when leading a seminar on developing on webOS only to be interrupted by someone attending to show them the HP press release. I would have hoped you would have let them know ahead of time, but it appears even those high up the food chain were caught unawares. With that act alone you might have completely killed webOS as now those who were most passionate about it are probably looking to jump ship as fast as possible.

But you know what, you can still try to make things right. Make webOS attractive for another, more successful  more committed, more innovative, and more knowledgeable company to use. No one is likely going to want to license webOS when they can get Android for free. Or make the licensing deal really competitive. Open Source it. What ever you do don't let it die in some back room at HP just because you failed to try hard at something.

At this point it should be fairly obvious that I'm not happy with you, HP. I plan on boycotting you in the future, though I know that means very little to you now since all you have are crappy printers (did I mention that already?). I know you'll just shrug and move on, but I've never felt this strongly about boycotting a company before. Oh, and one last thing; in about a year from now when that $10 billion company you just bought doesn't turn you around, will you be shutting that down too? Quitting; the HP way.


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