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Could Compaq re-emerge to fly the tablet flag for HP

Tablets, it seems are going to be bigger than anyone thought at first. Bigger than PCs? Possibly


Published: 25 August, 2011

READ MORE: Financial | Laptop | Netbook | Tablet

Continued ...

But that culture does not lend itself to agility. And companies without agility have to stay in business that will still be around in ten years. If HP had invented the iPod, it would still be trying to make the revenue model grow. It would have forgot to move on.

Which is perhaps why the WebOS purchase was always doomed, why any tablet that came out of such a company would have too many cooks and too many costs. There is nothing wrong with WebOS, it is in the wrong place, at the wrong time, now owned by the wrong company. That needs to change.

Palm did NOT have that culture and we did say it was doomed the day that the deal was announced. Finding a way forward for WebOS will be tough, but not impossible, but if it remains within HP it will become one of those pieces of software used in its printers and peripherals, and never targeted at tablets and phones ever again. Instead HP will take it into cars, health monitors and household appliances. Such products require a stripped-down, cloud-oriented OS rather than a full-blown smartphone-style system and these devices will one day speak to each other and need a human UI.

But all the profit from such a cloud OS will almost certainly go to someone like Google, which offers services on them, or to someone like Apple, who creates a high degree of desirability into a device which runs it. HP will make evolutionary steps while the other two have what it takes to make revolutionary steps, due to their agility.

And it seems to us that corporate agility is down to one thing, a CEO that takes a detailed interest in the product he or she creates. HP CEO Léo Apotheker, doesn't care to do that. Todd Bradley, the ex-CEO of Palm, and the man running the PC Group at HP, thinks he can.

HP execs have traditionally remained close enough to what turns on the customer, and are close to the sale force, who hears what the customer is asking for, but they do not anticipate the experience of consumers using brand new product categories. People who CAN do that are not accountants, they are not visionaries, they are not salesmen, but they have the ability of putting themselves in the position of a customer and imagining trying to use the product. They are then single minded about producing that desired experience. Yes we did just describe Steve Jobs, but he is not the only person in the world that can do that. At least we hope he's not.

So anyway HP is not closing its WebOS operation. It will continue to develop WebOS and begin to license it to other companies to use in their products.

The TouchPad tablets and Pre smartphones are definitively gone (and there is a fire-sale to rid HP of stock) and that decision was made by a leadership team that cannot imagine creating a $6 billion a quarter business out of a new device in just over a year, the way people at Apple have grown to expect to be able to do. You might argue, as the CEO of HP has argued this past week, that this would cost HP a lot of money and that money can be more sensibly spent elsewhere. But we would argue differently.

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