Over the course of the next year, I’m guessing we see more and more Android partners get fed up with some aspect of the OS — be it the hardships making money, Google’s own intentions, lawsuits, etc. With that in mind, webOS remains a dark horse for something interesting. 

But, as Brian X. Chen points out, HP is putting fewer and fewer resources into it as the move to open source the software is nearly complete. Someone is going to need to step up to take control and keep development going. HTC? LG? Facebook?

Chris Ziegler:

We’ve just been tipped to a memo circulated internally by HP’s Todd Bradley — who runs the company’s recently-merged Printing and Personal Systems Group — announcing the creating of a new Mobility business unit underneath him that will be responsible for “consumer tablets” and “additional segments and categories where we believe we can offer differentiated value to our customers.”

It was a year ago tomorrow that HP killed off the TouchPad tablet and started the process of getting out of the consumer computing space entirely. 

A month after that, CEO Leo Apotheker was fired.

Bradley, in his memo:

I am pleased to announce that we are creating a team dedicated to delivering the best mobility solutions in the industry. With this move, we are building on our commitment to re-invest in mobility via dedicated leadership, focused research and development, amazing new products and a growing suite of applications and services.

What’s amazing is that HP already *had* this team via the acquisition of Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010. They completely fucked it up. Now they’ve completely wasted of a year — which may as well be a decade in this environment. 

John Paczkowski:

If Microsoft’s decision to enter the PC hardware market with its own Surface tablet has caused Hewlett-Packard any anxiety, the PC-maker isn’t letting on.

And their other choice is what exactly? 

They can complain publicly and risk pissing off Microsoft and then keeping using Windows anyway because they have no other choice.

Or they can say all the right things publicly (while complaining privately) and then keep using Windows because they have no other choice.

I don’t mean to be a dick, but whoever came up with this name should be fired. 

Sorry, the committee that clearly came up with this name should be fired.

Actually, spare the innocents. Whoever approved this name for marketing purposes should be fired. Does someone at HP really think that consumers are going to see this name and think: WANT? 

Simple rule: stick to one name. No “XT” add-on bullshit. No “Spectre” add-on that makes it seem like you’re trying way too hard. Is this a laptop for James Bond villains? I’m confused.

Just sell the “Envy”. Or whatever. One name. One brand.

Choice is great except when it’s the exact opposite of great. Yes, there are other Envy laptops that HP wants to distinguish this particular model from, but that’s nonsense. Do it by price. “Good” “Better” “Best” — the Apple way works for a reason.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES “XT” MEAN? “Sleekbook” sounds disgusting. “Ultrabook” sounds lame. 

This is all one gigantic pile of branding fail. This is 2012. Computers are ubiquitous in society. You’re not allowed to sell something called the “HP Envy Spectre XT Ultrabook”.

I’m sorry, you’re just not. 

That’s not IBM. That’s not HP. That’s Dell.

But you’ll notice the trend. Everyone is getting out of the PC business because it’s a shitty business to be in.

IBM was way ahead of the curve (and is reaping the rewards as a result). While seemingly insane at the time, HP had the right idea last year (then backtracked and got burned last quarter). Now Dell.

You often hear the argument that Apple will eventually be squeezed in their high-margin hardware businesses. That cheaper components will drive costs down and cheap products will win. But that “win” comes with an asterisk. It’s a short-lived win. Eventually, it will turn to a loss both figuratively and literally. 

One of Apple’s strengths is the quality of their products, which allows for better margins. But their real strength is staying ahead of trends. By the time Apple dropped “Computer” from their name in 2007, they were already a different company.

They still make computers, but they have long since become a secondary business massively trumped by other businesses (first the iPod, then the iPhone, now the iPad).

Dell has lacked such foresight. Maybe it’s too late now, or maybe not. But I like John Gruber’s suggestion.

Update: As Jack Schofield points out, Dell also dropped “Computer” from their name in 2003. The difference is that when Apple did it, they were actually becoming a different company. Dell was doing the same old — which is why they had to make that statement today, nearly a decade later — though they were thinking about getting into printers. Which is funny for an entirely different reason.

Speaking of prison terms, Josh Topolsky scored an interview with Jon Rubinstein on his way out of the door from HP.

Rubinstein tries — and fails — to hold back his contempt for the past few HP regimes. It reads like he and fellow HP VP Todd Bradley had a grand plan (this one, perhaps?) for HP/webOS that disintegrated when then-CEO Mark Hurd was ousted. That, of course, kickstarted months of turmoil and turnover, highlighted by the disastrous Leo Apotheker reign (which didn’t even last a year).

The notion that Rubinstein’s exit was planned all along sure smells like total bullshit.

Best part of the interview:

There were things that didn’t work out the way everyone expected — can you talk about what caused the issues?

I don’t think it really matters at this point. It’s old history at this point.

You don’t want to talk about Leo?

Nah. We built an amazing OS in webOS. It’s very advanced, it’s where things are going. But we ran out of runway, and we ended up at HP and HP wasn’t in good enough shape on its own to be able to support the effort. I had four CEOs! Mark acquired us, Les Jackson took over as the interim CEO, then Leo, and now Meg.


While Rubinstein says he’s going to take some time off, he’s not retiring. Given the bad blood in recent years, I wouldn’t expect him back at Apple anytime soon. But remember, he is still an Amazon board member — and Amazon is pushing deeper into hardware…

Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm (and former Apple executive), has left HP.

With Palm hardware now dead and webOS now open-sourced, the writing has been on the wall for this to happen for a while. To hear HP tell it, this was the plan all along. As Arik Hesseldahl writes:

Rubinstein is said to have no immediate plans, and had completed a 12-24 month commitment to stay with HP after the acquisition. “Jon has fulfilled his commitment and we wish him well,” HP spokeswoman Mylene Mangalindan said.

Sounds almost like a prison term.

Good follow up on the webOS situation by Palm vet and notable web persona Dion Almaer.

His stance is essentially that Palm had a ton of talented people, but webOS was rushed and was ultimately pushed out the door too early. This led to a domino effect.

He also argues that the web in many ways is powerful enough to be a full-fledged mobile platform, but webOS wasn’t position correctly to do that. And the really hard work wasn’t put in to make that happen. Instead, webOS was sort of a poor-performing half-measure. 

Almaer’s bottom line is that the web without any native code isn’t ready yet — with an emphasis on yet

Best line:

If we brought a true, reliable, performant, Web platform with the great UI of Matias and friends…. webOS wouldn’t be in the hands of Meg right now.


A pretty damning report from Brian X. Chen for The New York Times. It essentially says that Palm and then HP were incompetent with their building and management of webOS.

But even more damning may be what it says about the “web versus native” debate. Quoting Paul Mercer, the former senior director of software for Palm:

“If the bar is to build Cupertino-class software in terms of responsiveness and beauty,” he said, “WebKit remains not ready for prime time, because the Web cannot deliver yet.”

This is interesting since Apple itself was vital in the development of WebKit and still uses it as the backbone of Safari. But consider this: when the iPhone first launched in 2007, Apple tried to get third party developers to make web apps for the iPhone since there was no native development SDK. A year later, they backed down from that and released the framework that created the most important element of the iOS ecosystem: third-party native apps.

It’s perhaps a bit too simplistic to say, but Palm didn’t have the luxury to pivot to native because “native” for webOS is the web. And Mercer argues that it’s still not ready to match native app development — a topic which is entering its fourth year of debate.

I can’t speak from the developer side of things, but all I know is what I see as a user: native apps still destroy web apps. Starting this week, I’m sure we’re going to hear how that’s poised to change (yet again) in 2012. But I doubt it. And that’s why webOS is still screwed. 

VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar reports not only that HP was trying to sell webOS for $1.2 billion (the same price HP paid to get all of Palm just last year), but that Facebook was one suitor they met with. 

While Hardawar cites a source saying that this deal “was practically laughed out of the room”, I wouldn’t totally put the idea of webOS and Facebook to bed. 

Back in August, when HP was in crazy mode, myself and others laid out reasons why a Facebook/webOS deal would make sense. It still does — but maybe even more so now that HP ultimately decided to open source the OS.

Most of the reports about the Facebook Phone have them forking a version of Android in a similar way to what Amazon did for the Kindle Fire. But imagine if Facebook forked webOS instead?

Given Facebook’s HTML5 ambitions, and webOS’ HTML base, this seems to make more sense than forking a Java development platform. 

I also wouldn’t sleep on one or more OEM pushing for this. Sooner or later, one of Android’s big OEM partners is going to break away, likely when Google tries to exert more control on things like OS updates. Google can say what it wants about the Motorola deal, the second that happened, all the other OEMs started looking around at other options. Open source webOS is an attractive one. Open source webOS re-written to be FacebookOS is an extremely attractive one. 

New HP CEO Meg Whitman acknowledges the trend happening. Even if you don’t count the iPad (which you probably should), Apple’s share of the PC market continues to rise slow and steady and could eventually push Apple past HP as the top computer maker.

While everyone is busy debating if iOS/Android will be a repeat of the Mac/Windows war, they’re missing the flipside. The Mac/Windows race is starting to look more like the iOS/Android one. That is, Apple is the big single brand in terms of units, but as one self-contained player, they can’t overtake the larger ecosystem (Windows and Android). 

But it doesn’t matter like it used to. Times have changed. Developers go where they can make money and right now Apple’s smaller but much more tightly integrated ecosystem is beating the larger ecosystems in this regard. 

Maybe that will change, but maybe it won’t.

One thing not up for debate: profits matter. And there’s absolutely no question that even with modest market share, Apple is crushing everyone — including all of the kings of the rival ecosystems: HP and Microsoft and Google.