By now everyone who doesn’t live under a rock has heard that HP’s president Leo Apotheker announced that their HP webos-powered tablet, and maybe the whole PC business, is done. The company’s new direction will be to become a software company, building on the multi-billion dollar purchase of Autonomy, a company no one but the geekiest of tech insiders has ever heard of. The question is, who wins? (Hint: not HP shareholders).
Who wins? Well, probably first and foremost the executives and shareholders of Autonomy.
Then there’s Dell and Lenovo, who have done well this year but were undoubtedly impeded by HP’s presence in the PC market
(I don’t know about anyone else, but my next PC will now be a Dell or Lenovo, and my next printer a Brother, Samsung or Lexmark. Why would I trust HP to be there to support their products a year from now?)
The death of webos also benefits Google, allowing it to focus of what will now remain a two-way competition between Android and Apple.
But what exactly happened? How is it that HP, who paid over a billion dollars for Palm just a short time ago and had established itself as the dominant player in the PC and printer market, would decide to just walk away from those businesses?
From what I can see, the handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. The effects Carly Fiorina’s evisceration of HP’s once famed engineering capability have been manifest for awhile. I think the admitted “failure to execute” on webos was a direct result of HP’s corporate stupidity in valuing short-term profits over long-term investment in human capital. It was also a glaring failure of imagination and a disturbing fickleness on the part of HP’s management.
How HP or any other tech company, especially hardware companies thought they could continue to compete while de-emphasizing innovation and manufacturing is beyond me. Of all the companies that have tried to re-invent themselves as a service business, IBM is the only one that seems to have been successful — and the last chapter in that story has not yet been written.