HP’s webOS Debacle More Terrible Than Apple’s ‘Worst Days’ Says Former Exec


Photo by desmorider - http://flic.kr/p/7KY6dt
Photo: desmorider - http://flic.kr/p/7KY6dt

How did HP get into such a mess with webOS? Essentially, the company shot itself in the foot as a parade of managers streamed through the corporate suites in a nightmare scenario reminding one of the worst days of Apple. Ousted HP CEO Leo Apotheker must take the blame, a former webOS head said.

Former webOS Community Manager Chuq von Rospach called his last months at HP akin to Apple prior to Steve Jobs. “Apple in the worst of days — the dark, damp days of [Michael] Spindler that made you want to wake up screaming, but you couldn’t because you weren’t asleep — were never as bad as these last few months in Leoville,” von Rospach said. The former executive spent three years at HP.

In August, HP announced it would stop production on its webOS software used by its TouchPad tablet and webOS phones. The TouchPad was later shelved after dismal sales, causing some to speculate whether the company — now headed by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman — would get out of the whole PC business.

The HP veteran also blasted what he saw as a revolving door of managers and department heads. “I had six direct managers, averaging about five months per, ranging from a first level manager to directors to a couple of VPs,” he said. “I reported to, or up to, eight different VPs in that time. One of my direct managers (the last one) and two of those VPs are still with HP. Does that give you a sense of how well things were going in the organization?”

In 2010, HP acquired Palm (and the webOS) for $1.2 billion, a move von Rospach said only infused a near-failing company with much needed cash. The former exec points to HP’s Palm buyout as a “self-inflicted” wound.

How can HP turn itself around? Although von Rospach doesn’t comment, perhaps the PC maker can take a page from Jobs’s turnaround at Apple. Streamline the product line, for starters. Make smart acquisitions for another. Whitman is being given the benefit of the doubt that she will remove HP’s penchant for knee-jerk reactions, resulting in such disasters as the Palm buy and the resulting TouchPad nightmare. Those are good New Year’s resolutions for a company that has teetered on the edge for some time now.


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