Fast Decisions: Steve Jobs vs. Meg Whitman

In writing about the recent news that HP is taking their time to decide webOS’ fate, John Gruber wrote

So the longer HP waits, the less valuable WebOS becomes, because more and more of the smart and talented people behind it will have left…

When you’re faced with a “we need to stop the bleeding” problem, you need a fast decision.

This sounds much like the situation at Apple when Gil Amelio was ousted as CEO and Steve Jobs was acting as an active advisor. Apple was in such disarray top employees were leaving. Jobs first order of business was to stop the talent drain by repricing their stock options. What happened next, according to Walter Isaacson in Steve Jobs:

Jobs called for a telephonic board meeting and outlined the problem. The directors balked. They asked for time to do a legal and financial study of what the change would mean. “It has to be done fast,” Jobs told them. “We’re losing good people.” 

When the board proposed a study that could take two months, Jobs exploded: “Are you nuts?!?”

Ultimately, Jobs threatened to leave Apple if the board wouldn’t support this kind of decision, which they did. 

Desperate times, desperate measures, and all that. I don’t know if feet are being dragged by Whitman or the board, but if the latter Whitman might want to crack a head or two. 

 

There Is No Plan B.

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The chart totals over 100% because respondents were allowed multiple choices. That’s too bad because it skews things a bit. Yes, the iPad is stomping everyone, but 94.5% has less meaning when the total comes to nearly 150%.

It’s better to look at this one column at a time, where we can determine a device’s absolute rejection (not acceptance). For example, we don’t know that 3.8% of respondents would buy a RIM PlayBook, because it may have been their second choice, but we do know 96.2% of respondents rejected it outright, since it’s not on their list at all.

I think of the beatdown like this: for each iPad competitor (column), 90% or more of respondents rejected it. In other words, nine out of 10 people wouldn’t even put it on their list as a second choice. Meanwhile, the iPad is rejected only 5.5% of the time. Put it all together and we know not only that the vast majority of respondents are interested in the iPad, but that for most of them there is no Plan B.

The Answer Is No.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab:

Sales not as fast as expected… a Samsung executive revealed those figures don’t represent actual sales to consumers. Instead, they are the number of Galaxy Tab devices that Samsung has shipped to wireless companies and retailers

HP Touchpad

According to one source who’s seen internal HP reports, Best Buy has taken delivery of 270,000 TouchPads and has so far managed to sell only 25,000, or less than 10 percent of the units in its inventory.

RIM PlayBook

RIM has quietly cut its sales expectations for the BlackBerry PlayBook after its disappointing sales from the spring

Motorola Xoom

New estimates for sales of Motorola’s Xoom tablet–available since late February–are in, but even the most optimistic predictions are scarily small and pale next to the iPad 2′s first-weekend sales numbers.

The iPad’s Competitors Drop Like Flies. Actually, They Never Even Took Off.

The iPad is the king of tablets and might hold that title for years to come. However, there are a ton of alternatives that we’ve featured over the last few months… But since [then], a lot has changed and while some managed to make it to the market, others were delayed or scrapped entirely.

Nice article describing what’s happened to alleged iPad alternatives (are they called alternatives to recognize the iPad has no competitors?) in the last few months.

I’ve written the iPad has no “alternatives”, and CrunchGear makes it’s easy to see why. We can dismiss seven of them out of hand: 

  • ModBook – This is a MacBook reconfigured. A laptop with a desktop OS.
  • Viliv X70 – A tablet with a desktop OS (XP, no less).
  • Archos 9 – A tablet with a desktop OS.
  • Viliv S10 Blade – A “convertibile” device. Again, a laptop with a desktop OS.
  • Spring Design Alex – This is an eBook reader, what’s it doing here?
  • Lenovo Skylight – A netbook, not sure how it made even an exaggerated list of competitors.
  • Lenovo IdeaPad U1 – Another “convertibile” that comes apart. Desktop OS as PC, and maybe Android as a tablet?

Some of these are not even available, but even if they were they’re not iPad alternatives. They’re not iPad tablets in any sense. It’s not just about form, it needs a touch, not desktop, OS and apps. The human finger doesn’t have the precision for software written for the precision of a cursor tip. A stylus can address that, but styli are a big failure, no one wants them. Why would any hardware maker (or anyone else) ignore the decade of failure “desktop tablets” have had in the market? 

After weeding out the above, of the six remaining (I left the HP Slate because rumors say it won’t run a desktop OS), four of them—Notion Ink Adam, HP Slate, WeTab, and ExoPC—are nowhere to be found. These devices are delayed, or maybe even killed altogether. In any case, they can hardly be called alternatives now. They’re vapor, and I remain convinced the iPad will outsell vapor. 

So that leaves just two devices: the enTourage eDGe dualbook, which isn’t any good; and the Dell Streak, whose too-large-for-a-pocket but too-small-for-a-tablet form factor isn’t winning any converts, and it’s not yet available in the US. 

The tech press loves for Apple to have competition, and sometimes go out of their way to invent it. In the case of the iPad, however, it simply doesn’t exist. Not even close. Maybe by the end of the year, but certainly not now.

Palm: “Hey! We’re still here! Look at us!” (*waving arms*)

Starting June 18th and ending on July 9th, the promotion will slash the price on every paid app in the App Catalog by 50%.

Palm is subsidizing the promotion, making up the difference so developers still get full price.

It’s a fine idea, but with major developers like Adobe currently (and predictably) telling Palm to get lost, surely others will follow. This is just a stop-gap measure similar to the bargain-basement prices on the Palm handsets themselves. At best, it provides temporary relief and a press release, but it’s no fix. The patient is still bleeding. If Palm (i.e., webOS) is to survive, HP must come out with a competitive device to show its worth.

HP CEO: Our purchase of Palm doesn’t mean what you think it means.

We didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business. And I tell people that, but it doesn’t seem to resonate well.

It’s like that old retort after someone states an obvious move: “No… that’s just what they’d be expecting us to do.”

Ha ha! HP just fooled us all.

I’ve said that I believe HP wanted an OS of their own for their mobile strategy. They saw the coming rise of mobiles, knew Microsoft couldn’t help them there, and wanted something to fuel their new devices. To me it was obvious this meant more than smartphones, but it was equally obvious it included smartphones.

This does not bode well for HP’s strategic thinking, so I’ll close by simply reminding you again…

HP webOS tablet rumored for this Fall

An insider at HP tells us that a webOS tablet under the code name HP Hurricane could be released the third quarter of this year.

I thought it would be nearly a year before HP could get a webOS tablet on the market. This rumor may be BS, but if true could mean a few things:

  • They’re rushing something to market because of Apple’s huge lead, and won’t let Apple have the holiday season to themselves. This would be a huge mistake, and one I think HP is smart enough to avoid.
  • They’re dreaming, and the date is half prayer, half vapor. They won’t make the date, but some people may hang on and wait to see what HP’s “iPad killer” can do.
  • They’ve had an ARM-based tablet in the works for a while (for Android?), and they’re simply shifting it to a webOS machine.

HP had talked of various tablets, so the last item is not out of the realm of possibility. I hope for HP’s sake that’s what it is. A device rushed to market would be a disaster, and the public is not likely to give them a second chance.