back to article Ex-Palm CEO Rubinstein wishes HP sale never happened

Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein is still proud of the work the ill-fated PDA maker did on its webOS smartphone platform, but when asked if he would have done anything differently there's still one thing that sticks in his craw. "Well, I'm not sure I would have sold the company to HP. That's for sure," Rubinstein told industry …

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FAIL

HP

HP's motto should be "We are the company where promising technology comes to die." HP is less a lab and more a hospice.

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Boffin

Re: HP

It seems so. They ended up killing:

  • DEC's Alpha
  • Tandem
  • PA-RISC (which was their own creation) to jump into the Itanic FAIL boat
  • Palm, all of it, including webOS

They sure know how to let good stuff die...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: HP

@Daniel B.

Autonomy will be next.

M&A at HP means Mergers and Assassination.

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Re: HP

That would infringe Attachmate's trademark.

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HP BC

BC = Before Carly

Pre-Carly, HP was solid with good ideas and excellent engineering.

If you wanted any electronic/scientific kit worth a damn, you bought HP. Medical kit too.

Then Carly stripped HP of everything that made it great - leaving just the least innovative part of company: PCs and printers.

Then she buggered off and tried to run for the US senate. If she could balls up a company so effectively just imagine what she could have done as a senator.

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Re: HP BC

Perhaps, but I doubt she would be significantly worse than many currently in the senate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: HP

Indeed. What a way to kill off interest in Autonomy by saying it is overvalued and the accounts were cooked. Anyone looking to do business with Autonomy would start to think about walking away.

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Thumb Up

Re: HP

Also when they merged (= Took over) Compaq many of the best products of both companies killed in the "rationalisation". The worst handheld, Workstations & Servers rather than best kept. But Compaq bought DEC surely, not HP and really only for the service channels, so all the DEC HW & SW was doomed anyway?

A far cry from the days when they made world leading Test gear and Semiconductors.

Their Laser printers are now inferior to Brother. The Inkjets only exist to sell ink.

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Mushroom

Re: HP

"We are the company where promising technology comes to die."

"We are the company that buys promising technology and kill it because we don't know what the fornication we are to do with it."

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Re: HP

Apollo? a former Apollo fan writes. They've been doing it for some time.

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FAIL

Re: HP

You forgot to include - the iPAQ line, purchased as part of the Compaq acquisition. It was the iPhone before the iPhone existed ... but ... never properly supported, and never ever properly fixed. It was also a black hole that sucked yet another Microsoft portable OS into the nethersphere....

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Re: HP

And the worst part about that is this came to be true only in the last 10-15 years. When I started in computers way back in the stone ages* of personal computing they were one of the companies who delivered real value, especially in the scientific research areas.

*As the document specialist, I was once graced with running the PC in the company with the largest hard drive: a whopping 40MB which couldn't be accessed as a single partition because DOS didn't support partitions that large.

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That was a genuine waste

WebOS was promising. It had performance issues, and they needed to flat out make some more compelling hardware, but the OS was full of good ideas, and had a clean design, especially for multitasking, that still puts other mobile OSes to shame.

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Re: That was a genuine waste

I still use my Pre3. You're right about the hardware - it was outdated even for the time, but I don't have any issues with performance really. The bootup time is ages, but then I rarely need to reboot.

It was designed as a business phone, so the multimedia aspects are iffy. Sound's not great and there's no expandable storage.

The touchstone charging's great though - I've got one at work and one at home and it beats plugging it into cables to charge hands down.

Obviously the selling point is the OS. WebOS gestures and multi-tasking is so effortless and intuitive that when I try using other mobile OSes, they just feel jarring and ugly. WebOS could still be fantastic if they could just update it - new browsers etc. It's a shame that HP killed it dead.

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Re: That was a genuine waste

The sad thing is that it was less that there were performance issues with the software as much as that there were too many features for the hardware.

The Pre had the same internals as an iPhone 3GS and came out a week or so earlier. But the 3GS didn't have full multitasking. Heck, the iPhone still doesn't have full multitasking and won't until IOS7 is released. The iPhone didn't have a customizable GUI framework. The iPhone didn't have the integrated address/contacts/messaging of Synergy.

And all those things the iPhone did NOT have made the iPhone that much faster for what it did do.

Android had the multitasking but not the synergy component and had the advantage of a half dozen manufacturers tweaking hardware and software, some of which would flow upstream to AOSP. Which meant Android was able to get better faster than WebOS.

The real performance drag of WebOS was that the GUI was web-based HTML & javascript, which wasn't that optimized 4 years ago. Of course the reason it was "Web"OS was that the original GUI was a total trainwreck that had to be rewritten in a do-or-die effort and the devs went with HTML/Javascript because it let them use off the shelf open source code for graphic layer and toolkit, was fast to build, fairly pretty, and easily updated.

I loved my Pre, and software tweaks kept it livable. The Pre2 was a much more enjoyable experience, with no more screen lag or stutter than Android. Adding WebOS2 to a Pre- did give a noticeable lift in speed.

I left WebOS becuase it was abandonware. Without any real support or upgrade path I decided it was time to move on intentionally instead of waiting for my devices to break. With no good physical keyboard Androids, I went to the Note 2 and, to unify my platform, am running CM9 on my HP Touchpad. Ironically, many many apps are better/prettier/easier to use on WebOS (Zite on WebOS is awesome as is Weatherbug) and the usability of webos ALMOST makes up for all the unsupported/unoptimized apps (like Adobe DRM, soooo sloooowwww)

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Numbers Game

It really is a shame WebOS got squished by HP. It really sucks now that $1B+ seems to be a normal number for acquisitions these days. A bunch of shitty photo filters goes for that much and nobody has come up with a compelling mobile OS outside of Android and iOS yet. If they could have held on without the HP money they'd be worth big bucks now.

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Re: Numbers Game

Ever heard about Sailfish? I'd call that quite compelling.

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Re: Numbers Game

It was $1bn in cash and Facebook stock. So you can cut more than a third off probably a large chunk of that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Numbers Game

'If they could have held on without the HP money they'd be worth big bucks now.'

That's a fairly big 'if'...Palm was running out of money and it's likely they would have gone under anyway.

Palm was a bit of a mixed bag. Palm Pre didn't do very well. WebOS was good on a phone and even better on a tablet. Trouble was Palm couldn't afford to build it and by the time HP built it the 18 month-old specs and iPad price tag were just too little too late...

Favourite quote from Rubenstein in July 2011, talking about Touchpad: 'it's a marathon not a sprint'. Seven weeks later HP gave up...shame.

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Re: Numbers Game

Sailfish is OK, but that's about it. All very nice, but I can't see the "wow" factor in it.

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LDS
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FAIL

webOS had the wrong name

When Palm changed the name of its OS from PalmOS to webOS it made a huge mistake. Many people didn't understand what it was - was it a mobile OS, or was it an OS who needed an Internet connection to work? Had it native applications like PalmOS had, or was it going to have only web ones running in a browser? Palm chose the ill-fated name because it wanted people to develop with HTML and JavaScript, but you have to aim to consumers, not developers.... it also had a split line of devices with some Treos running Windows Mobile 6 - good devices, but limited by the glacial development pace of Windows Mobile then. And let's not talk about the money thrown away in the development of Foleo.... although a Chromebook is as much as silly.

Both Apple and Google understood better how to sell a mobile operating system.

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Boffin

Re: webOS had the wrong name

WinMo killed Palm. Anything that MS touches turns to crap.

That said, yes the name for that OS was not only confusing, it was hilarious in Spanish. Why? Because 'webos' sounds like 'Huevos' which basically means 'bollocks'. Oh the innuendo!

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Re: webOS had the wrong name

> although a Chromebook is as much as silly.

I was thinking that... until remembering numerous reports of massive fines handed down to public organisations in the U.K for losing laptops and memory sticks containing data of private citizens. Larger organisations can put together a VPN and a customised Linux distro for laptops, but small/medium business don't have the resources to do the same, and are increasingly being targeted by criminals on-line whose MO is to encrypt business-critical machines and then hold the business to ransom.

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LDS
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Re: webOS had the wrong name

In 2013 a VPN and encrypted disks are beyond SMBs resources? C'mon! You have even free tools like pfSense or the like to setup a firewall/router with full VPN support. Disk encryption is supported by any OS, and if you let malware reach your PC while handling sensitive data you should be fired because it's not the job for you.

While storing data on Google servers where under FISA the US government can peer at them at will is better, isn't it? Some of the data lost where from large organizations, not small ones. It's just a matter of skill and competence - there are small companies with sound security and big ones that have almost none.

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Re: @LDS

"In 2013 a VPN and encrypted disks are beyond SMBs resources?"

Yes. Many small businesses have to get a consultant/contractor in to unbox their PC's and plug the cables in. Most have no idea how to set up a network and rely on a serviced business package from someone like BT.

I know someone who works at a small insurance brokers (lots of sensitive information) that when they need to print they have to copy documents to USB and take them to "the printing machine" because that's the only computer plugged into the printer. They didn't even realise they had a network, just that they were all connected to the internet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: webOS had the wrong name

Not exactly. Windows Mobile was more powerful and Palm's whole approach was very simple PDAs.

Just because Palm wasn't producing what people wanted doesn't mean Microsoft was to blame.

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Pint

Re: @LDS

I'm glad you said this.

Tech forums tend to be populated by people who think that everyone understands tech. They don't.

In real life, insurance brokers understand insurance (hopefully), not technology. And techies understand technology, but would probably drown working as desk jockeys selling financial services or some such stuff.

Agreed, sometimes the ignorance is woeful, and they ought to understand the basic tools they use: But then that also cuts both ways. I'm sure plenty of techies have bought the wrong insurance policy/taken the wrong kind of mortgage/got the wrong double glazing etc. because they didn't understand what they were buying

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LDS
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Re: @LDS

So what's the problem? Pay a tech to set it up for you! Or an insurance broker is so "poor" it can pay for professional services? It doesn't look they ask little money when you need insurance services.... but hey, they are "professionals"!

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Re: @LDS

"They didn't even realise they had a network, just that they were all connected to the internet."

Then they're paying the wrong consultant/contractor. Or not paying them enough and paying the price for penny pinching.

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LDS
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@Terry 6

As I ask (and pay not little) professionals (lawyers, accountant, brokers, etc.) when I need their services because I don't understand fully - why those people should not ask and pay IT professionals to setup their IT services professionally and appropriately - if they are too greed and prefer to ask cheap and unskilled people (if not their cousin), and then they lose data - well - that's fully deserved. You get what you pay for. It's not a matter of SMBs "resources", because the needed technology is already cheap enough for them as well. Is just a matter of arrogance, ignorance, and greed.

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LDS
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Re: webOS had the wrong name

Actually, I owned both an Handsrping Treo 270 (PalmOS 3.5, one of the first real smartphones - in 2002) and a Palm Treo Pro (WinMo 6.1), and frankly, didn't find WinMO more poweful - in many situations the older PalmOS was smarter than WinMo 6.1 was.

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Boffin

Re: webOS had the wrong name

Most of the Palm stuff standed out by itself because of PalmOS. Even as late as 2006, the Treo was one of the most wanted smartphones out there, IIRC it could even do video chat. Suddenly Palm decided to spin off the OS division, and all development stagnated.

Then the fugly WinMo came in to fill the gap, and suddenly the Palm 'smartphones' turned into a me-too something running WinMo. They faded into obscurity, and by the time webOS came out, they had been lost in the sea of clunky WinMo "smart"phones.

The same thing is happening right now with Nokia... see how they lost their majority smartphone share overnight after the Elopocalypse...

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interference and missteps by the wireless carriers.

The crap they want to put on phones is Android's biggest problem too, and the reason I bought a Nexus 4.

Why don't they try to differentiate their service, not see who can put the most useless crap on a phone, then never update it.

When HP bought them I figured they were a goner. I liked webOS and figured by the 2nd generation they would be something I might buy. Still sort of wish I had picked up a fire sale Pad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: interference and missteps by the wireless carriers.

@Tom 35: "Why don't they try to differentiate their service[....]"

1) Because their service really isn't different from the other guys: route packets and/or voice data. The only way in which you can "differentiate" is to do it faster and/or do it places the other guys don't, which leads to:

2) Doing it faster and/or doing it places the other guys don't means real infrastructure, which costs real (billions) money in initial expenses, and even more in ongoing upkeep costs.

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FAIL

But of course HP screwed it up. When was the last thing they *didn't* screw up? But it's a bit late to whine about it now, especially since Palm had no hope left anyway. This way at least the shareholders got something. Not the HP shareholders of course....

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Trollface

"Not the HP shareholders of course...."

Sucks to be them!

Really, I think it must!

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FAIL

HP Huh

I've mistrusted them since I had an HP multi-function printer a few years ago. Great machine. Crap software.The worst thing was that they knew they had a problem, it affected lots of customers, but they couldn't resolve it.

Their own installation routines were so badly implemented that the thing became useless if you had to reinstall it for any reason. The uninstall left behind files that the reinstall couldn't ( and didn't need to) overwrite. But then installation fell over.

Only the basic printer driver continued to function.

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Re: HP Huh

"Great machine. Crap software."

I had the misfortune to help someone install their newly bought multi-function thingy. I almost died from shock seeing that installing the "required" software/drivers needed several hundred MBs of disk space.

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Re: When was the last thing they *didn't* screw up?

Probably the HP 5Si. Which is also sad given the mess their current printers are.

Of course they've always made mistakes. They made what the called an integrator for data analysis with gas and HPLC chromatography equipment. Their little machine was one of the best on the market. I worked for a company that wanted to pull raw data out of it and manipulate it on a PC instead of just on the integrator HP had be churning out for years. Our programmers got to work on it but hit a roadblock trying to unpack the raw data (technically it wasn't encrypted but it may as well have been). Without HP's assistance we couldn't turn the stored files into usable information. HP was interested and signed a mutually beneficial deal to help us develop the software (and they made other contributions that were as big as the project continued). Turns out part of the reason they were as interested as they were in our project is that when they designed and built their machine way back when, they hadn't purchased the source code for one of the roms in the system and for whatever reason could no longer purchase the source code. They could continue manufacturing the machine indefinitely based on their masters for the ROM, but they'd never be able to update it. So our idea was the easiest way for them to get back to working with the raw data. The big difference between then and now is that then they didn't insist on doubling down on stupid and never working on smart.

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Anonymous Coward

""If we had known they were just going to shut it down and never really give it a chance to flourish, what would have been the point of selling the company?" Rubinstein said."

Well, the shareholders got a nice payday out of it; at least on the Palm side they did. The majority got what they wanted; the minority didn't.

"To Rubinstein that's all a shame, because it means HP missed an opportunity to produce smartphones and tablets based on a unique and compelling mobile OS."

HP did make and sell a tablet. The sale was more of a fire sale though; nonetheless, a tablet was offered.

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Anonymous Coward

Grrr...HP

Worked for HP once a long time ago. That was in the days when HP was revered, when Bill & Dave were alive, and the "HP Way" meant something. But that changed. Bill & Dave passed away and the career stair-climbers took over...VP douchebags like Ricky Belluzzo who was working for Redmond even back in the mid 90's when he was pretending to care about HP (and his trail of wreckage from HP through SGI into Bill Gates' arms is well known). Happy to see that Ricky had a falling-out with his Dark Lord and is no longer with Microsoft.

The division I worked for was deliberately scuttled by Dave Hoover (known on the inside as "the terminator" since his whole reason for existing was to destroy profitable divisions and send the IP overseas). And this was done at the behest of yet another VP whose name escapes me who wanted to build a fiefdom in France of all places. He ended up being turfed (a VP no less), but not before he destroyed a really good division or two in the process. I'm sure Hoover returned to the shark tank known as the Printer Division.

But then came the Dark Mistress who sold the company to Bangalore. And a full infusion of the PC world parasite ending with a giant fucking "Q" put a final end of the real HP.

It should be noted that HP didn't invent the iPaq. That was a Digital invention codenamed "Itsy." The very idea of dumping PA-RISC for the fucking Itanic should have killed Carly's HP...sadly it didn't.

(oh and that humming sound you hear is Bill and Dave spinning wildly in their graves.)

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Unhappy

Palm's troubled history

I think Palm's problems go back to the original PalmPilot. I seem to remember Palm selling themselves to USRobotics to benefit from their "infrastructure and resources," but immediately USRobotics sold themselves to 3Com. The CEO of 3Com, Benhamou, drove away Hawkins and Dubinsky, the founders and visionaries, leaving Palm rudderless at a crucial time.

Even after Hawkins and Dubinsky came back when Palm bought Handspring, Palm meandered and frittered away any advantages they had. So, this ending for Palm is sad, but not out of character.

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Anonymous Coward

History

Not forgetting that they did the same thing with Appollo in the late 1980's. Appollo were very high in the workstation market which HP wasn't doing so well in.

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Re: History

Ah memories.

Just before HP bought Apollo the market share in workstations was (Sun, Apollo, SGI,..., HP). Just after it became (Sun, HP-Apollo, SGI...). Three months later when all the current and unstoppable orders had gone through the order became (Sun, SGI..., HP-Apollo).

A colleague of mine left HP for Apollo about six month before the buyout, he was gutted when it happened and shortly after was made redundant by HP after they'd bought him. Seemed to him that HP was just persuing him around making him miserable.

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FAIL

A waste indeed.

I remember slamming the table in anger and frustration when HP cancelled the Pre 3 days before release and then started to pull off their terrible "maybe we'll sell some of them today, maybe not" games with no clear future for the OS cut out so you didn't know whether you'd be buying a useless brick at insane prices on eBay. At least when Nokia burned Symbian and MeeGo you got some kind of roadmap.

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I've seen the future and it will be

One day Hewlett Packard and Yahoo! will merge into one gigantic corporate supershambles and disappear in a puff of hapless mismanagement.

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Re: I've seen the future and it will be

We can only hope. Knowing my luck though, a merger between those two will actually open some kind of interdimensional rift to Hell. -.-

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Re: I've seen the future and it will be

Or, appropriately, "I've seen the future, brother: it is murder." (The Future - Leonard Cohen)

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Re: I've seen the future and it will be

Oh. My reference was from the Batman soundtrack. My youth was pretty tasteless, I'll admit

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Pint

Re: I've seen the future and it will be

No worries Mr. Pock, I got it and it made me smile.

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