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. 

 

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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 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.

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.

HP wants an OS to call their own

[HP bought Palm] For a number of very good reasons… but one above all: H-P wants its own operating system. And by acquiring Palm that’s exactly what it’s getting. The steady refrain during my conversation with HP execs this afternoon, “We’re very excited about webOS … We see great potential in webOS … We’re going to double down on webOS.”

HP spent this decade racing Dell to the bottom on pricing and squeezing margins. They “won”, but at a cost of not making anything like the quality hardware they used to. This is what comes from everyone using the same OS, so you can only differentiate on price. Now mobile platforms are the new frontier, yet there’s HP’s upcoming slate, running an “optimized” Windows 7, like everyone else. And, like everyone else, it will fail.

I really think HP wanted a differentiator in the mobile space more than anything else. Android isn’t it, that’s what everyone else will run to, so they’ll have to differentiate on price. It’s déjà vu, and HP wants no part of that.

I like the idea, applaud HP’s effort, and wish them luck. Whether they can pull it of remains to be seen. They’ll need to adopt webOS for a tablet ASAP. I don’t think they can make holiday season this year, next Spring seems more realistic. A year is a long time in this business, but when you’ve got nothing…

Meanwhile, Microsoft can’t be happy. They want their desktop-OS-shoehorned-with-a-few-touch-features on everyone’s tablet and slate devices. HP clearly doesn’t want to play that game. Not on mobile devices anyway. Make no mistake, this purchase hurts Microsoft. Windows 7 is no good for tablets, and Windows Phone 7 is just too far off. Once WP7 is available, why would HP use it? They have their own OS now, and I think that was their plan all along.

Is Palm’s Last Hope To Build A Tablet? Um, No.

Perhaps, Palm could reverse its fortunes and regain its former glory if it went back to its PDA roots and developed a tablet PC to compete with the iPad?

Palm is bleeding. Last quarter’s results were a disaster, and even more recently an analyst cut the price target to $0, leading to a pummeling of the stock, down nearly 30%.

Add to that the fact Palm couldn’t even get the hardware of the original Pre right at a time when they had good press and solid financial backing. Yet now it’s being suggested their “last hope” is to design and bring to market a completely new product? That’s not going to happen.

Palm’s real “last hope” is almost certainly to sell. If not the entire company, than at least the webOS and their patent portfolio.

Palm Could Sell Phones For An Entire Quarter Off Carrier Backlog Alone

The company shipped 960,000 smart phones to stores and distributors in the quarter that ended Feb. 26, 23 percent more than in the previous quarter. However, the number of phones that were actually bought by consumers was 408,000

The bad news isn’t that Palm only sold 408,000 phones (well, that’s actually horrible news, but nothing compared to what’s next). No, the bad news is that a backlog 552,000 shipped phones is sitting on carriers’ shelves.

Think about it. Though trending downward, let’s imagine Palm has 10% better unit sales in the coming quarter than the one just passed. They’d still have 100,000 phones in inventory without having shipped a single phone in the quarter.

Ouch.