back to article HP chief bows to Jobsian cult

Why is HP killing its webOS tablet and hoping to spin-off its PC business? Apple. During HP's quarterly earnings call with reporters and analysts on Thursday afternoon, company CEO Leo Apotheker explained the company's unexpected about-face with an admission that may seem paradoxical on the surface, but ultimately makes …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So....

    What happens to WebOS which, by many accounts, was actually pretty damn good software.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Quite good

      but 3 years too late and lack of apps. Just like Windows Phone 7.....

      Windows Phone 7/7.5 is the next trainwrek lining up...

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        For all m$ faults

        And there are many.

        Giving up at the first hurdle like a little school boy is not one of them.

        Win mob achieved a small but significant Market share. Winpho can regain it over time.

        M$ have far more tenacity than HP have ever shown.

        1. Armando 123

          True enough

          OTOH, there are times when you realize "Dang, we're beat." My dad related this to me once by telling me about his first high school basketball game, against Crispus Attucks High, when he had to guard some scrawny kid named Oscar Robertson.

        2. Lou 2
          Windows

          MS$ has more tenacity than hp?

          Say what - just look a the products (perfectly usable) that lies scattered and broken in the SM$ wake - they are notorious for killing off products rather quickly

    2. Thomas 4
      Unhappy

      So this is how the story of Palm OS ends

      It's a crap and unworthy ending for an OS that deserved better.

    3. eulampios
      Meh

      OS closeness might be the culprit

      HP Should've opened WebOS like MeeGo.

      Interestingly, tt is reported that HP to lower down their prices significantly. I do not see it in BestBuy.

      Moreover, there are two HP tabs differing in $100 - $399 and $499 ,resp. One would ask what is different in the hardware? I can only see 16Gb vs. 32Gb drive . That is why no one wants an HP tab!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    cool

    Should have fired Apotheker for purchasing Palm

    Should have fired Fiorina for purchasing Compaq

    That's not an investment they did, they threw their money outside of the window... clueless and no ball as usual in such a big company....

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Apotheker didn't purchase Palm

      He's been CEO at GP since September last year, having moved over from SAP. Palm were acquired by HP in July last year.

  3. John Geddes

    Has Apotheker's speech been translated from another language?

    "There’s a clear secular movement in the consumer PC space" - I really don't understand what that means.

    Has it been (badly) translated from another language, am I just too ignorant to be worth HP communicating with, or does it make Leo Apotheker a bit of a pseud?

    1. Natalie Gritpants

      Definite pseud

      Thanks for the memories that word brought back.

      I think he means gizmos are subject to the vagaries of fashion and HP are not fashionable. - worthy of a NoShitSherlock icon.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      @John Geddes

      Sounds like business speak (typically backed by some equally incomprehensible and too simplified Powerpoint slides). Given Leo Apotheker's origin it may well be translated directly from German business speak.

    3. amanfromearth

      Translation

      What he means is that buyers of computing devices are no longer sticking to the old religion of PCs and Laptops. They are moving to tablets.

    4. Blurch

      Here's a dictionary

      http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/secular

    5. Chris Miller

      It's the original English meaning

      now a little historical: 'once in a lifetime/century/age'. Remember that Apotheker is not a native English speaker and was therefore (I imagine) taught to speak the language 'correctly'.

    6. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Headmaster

      No, maybe and definitely

      I think in non-bullshit it means that people don't particularly care which brand of PC they buy - they've "lost faith" in any one particular brand and aren't swayed by "big names" like HP any more.

      "Brand-agnostic" would probably be closer to what I think he meant. Religion and religious metaphors seem to permeate US culture for some reason...

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      "There’s a clear secular movement in the consumer PC space"

      Translates as "People don't want tablets, they want iPad's"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        which should read

        There is a clear religious movement away from the pc space. HP are in real trouble first they had a CEO who didn't understand money then a CEO who didn't understand the companies own policies , and, now a CEO who can't talk.

    8. Ian Davies
      Pint

      secular = non-religious

      Apple is often lazily referred to as a religion, and Apple is the only tech company that I've seen references to in Apotheker's quotes about this part of HPs business so far. So assuming it *has* been translated correctly, perhaps he's admitting that the shift he refers to is taking place not because of blind religious zeal for Apple - which variously gets explained away as "better marketing" - but because Apple actually are producing better products...?

    9. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re secular

      I think he's using "secular" in the sense it's used by astronomers: a slow, underlying trend. For example, the earth's orbit can be decomposed into assorted cyclical components and a secular trend.

      And I've seen economists use it in much the same way.

      So I guess he's saying the same about the PC market: there is an underlying trend away laptops and desktops towards iPads.

      1. Adam Nealis
        Thumb Up

        The long-term growth ... accounts for most secular trends in economic phenomena.

        > ... a slow, underlying trend ...

        > And I've seen economists use it in much the same way.

        I think you nailed it:

        From http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/secular

        5. Continuing over a long period of time, long-term.

        The long-term growth in population and income accounts for most secular trends in economic phenomena.

        on a secular basis

    10. Anonymous Coward 101
      Happy

      Actually...

      "secular movement in the consumer PC space" means there has been a long term change in consumer preference in computers. I'm using wikipedia here, but still.

      He is using marketing jargon, but the words he is using do have meaning. It's allowed, just like IT jargon.

    11. Graham Dawson

      Get a dictionary and lrn2english

      Secular means, amongst other things, an event that lasts a long time or that happens, or is celebrated, once within a century (or other long period).

      What Apothekar means is that, within the consumer PC space, there is a movement that is at once long-term, highly notable and has nothing to do with relig- wait...

    12. Miek

      Translated badly? Or just pointless?

      I think the use of secular there is irrelevant, the consumer PC space is non-religious* anyway.

      * I'm referring to theism

  4. Voland's right hand Silver badge
    Devil

    Well, surprise surprise

    Aren't we surprised....

    Half of el Reg readership pointed out how to get this done. All that HP needed to do was to ship WebOS as an optional visual shell on every PC it shipped.

    As far as spinning off the PC biz, not like HP has a PC biz. Its board design has been done by Asus for ages. Ditto for a lot of he manufacturing. When you voluntarily surrender the part of your business which actually _CAN_ make a difference to someone and try to differentiate only on shop-ship spreadsheet juggling prowess you should not complain about the consequences.

    1. Bullseyed

      Re

      Yeah! Not like they have a PC biz. They're only the market share leader. OH WAIT.

  5. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Sad and pathetic

    I used to think Apple had crappy marketing ideas but they are all-stars compared to HP or Palm before them. It's pretty sad when the CEO is too clueless to figure out that failure is due to an inability to execute. The PC side would be pretty tough to differentiate but having BestBuy throw the tablet in a weekend ad flyer and dusting yourself off is the epitome of lax. Having a web site isn't enough, you can't just sit back and wait for the money to roll in even if you're on youtube.

    1. Stacy
      Happy

      Really?

      I hate almost everything about Apple - from the way it does business to the way that they treat their company as a religion or cult (and the fact that almost everyone I know who has an Apple is a stupendiously annoying fanboi that just repeats the Apple mantra of "must be the other things fault, Apples work out of the box, they never break, they are perfect" anytime they or someone else have problems) - but I'm amazed to find anybody who says they can't do marketing.

      Surely the *only* thing they can do is marketing!

      1. Bullseyed

        Re

        Stacy, I totally agree. I work for an IT distributor and around the office yesterday we were talking about how an IT firm (HP) lost to a marketing firm (Apple). Apple isn't a technology company, they are a marketing firm. They paid off enough Hollywood types for Apple to be "cool".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      That's great Eddy

      You've identified how they did it wrong. It's just "inability to execute". So enlighten us, what would have worked, what should they have done to make this a success?

      This should be good

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        @ac

        Good hardware would have been a start.

        Arguably webos has never had the hardware it deserved.

      2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        @AC

        I can't say what would have worked but they could have tried. Here's a hint, when I drive to work in the morning there are 2-3 iPhone ads in the 35 minute ride and there is another 1 or 2 in the 45 minutes on the way back, every day. Guess how many HP or Palm ads? I haven't heard one yet and the same goes for TV, granted I'm in a fairly small market, it's called Los Angeles. I won't go into the hardware or syncing problems or small screens but yeah touchstone was nice, pity only 37 people knew about it.

        Seriously, their entire youtube channel has about 1 million views and they could have gotten double that audience in the middle of a single 2 & 1/2 men episode. But... they didn't try.

  6. Bad Beaver
    Flame

    Not enough traction?

    Yeah, well, you announce the unique phone and then don't get around to selling it for half a year. Instead you try to peddle the me-too product that nobody really cares about. Of course you fail, and you deserve to. Who does not deserve this is the people invested in webOS.

    HP, you have just decided to fuck your customers, existing and potential. Prepare for them to give you the finger.

  7. Zobbo

    Confusement

    Have you ever tried to buy an HP? They have a billion different model names/umbers and figuring out which one is best suited to you is a nightmare. Check out their website, it's a disaster. I don't know if this is a sale technique kind of like Intel were they try to confuse you into being upsold. Apple doesn't have this problem, they have a small number of models so it's easy to choose.

  8. Asgard
    Unhappy

    HP really seem to be rudderless these days :(

    Back when William Hewlett & David Packard were prominent in the company it had products and a company to look up to. But then both Hewlett & Packard were both engineers, so they knew good engineering when they saw it. But HP are now run by suits more interested in share prices and company acquisitions to artificially boost their perceived company value in the eyes of shareholders.

    Its sickening that their core focus on building products is being given up because they are not run by engineers. Its hard to believe HP are giving up on technology to go over to more of less only software. So I guess they want to become another Oracle Corporation by the sounds of it?. Service industry, not engineering? How many Oracles can the fleecing service industry support?!

    If HP are not careful they will throw away what good they have remaining in their company and risk becoming another sinking ship like Nokia. :(

    I wonder what William Hewlett & David Packard would have made of all this. :(

    HP were one of the old company names I grew up with at work and at home. They have been over the decades like a constant name to me. One of the old names, so its sad to see them in decline like this due to rudderless greedy non-technical managers who wouldn't know engineering if they fell over it. :(

    They is why they are doing this, not PC decline. PC's will still be here, but I question HP's survival chances with people like this running the company.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Flame

      The company you're referring to with the name "HP"

      is not the real HP. Agilent is.

    2. DZ-Jay

      Re: Confusement

      I think you meant to say confusility.

      dZ.

  9. Joe Carter
    FAIL

    Short termism

    It sad because many of these big companies think too short term. Apple spent years building the software base for their tablets and iphones. Then comes along HP, buys Palm and expect software as good as Apple in 12 months or they give up. They need to give the WebOS division their head to make the best possible software over several iterations. Not give up after 12 months. Pathetic.

  10. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Scoreboard

    Can someone provide an update I lost count on the number of bad business decisions made by HP what number are they up to now, Sure it's getting very close to the three digit mark.

    It would be interesting to find out what business streams are propping up HP But I can't be arsed reading for myself. It's HP!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF?

    Having been given a touch tablet yesterday WTF does the future hold?

    Are HP sayin sod off, can the O/S be replaced with Linux/Windows?

    Great service HP.

  12. Stefing
    FAIL

    Ahem

    This is the tablet that El Reg proclaimed undying love for, right?

  13. Mage Silver badge

    Apple Shares

    Are only a Speculation vehicle as they don't pay a dividend.

    1990 was the time to buy them, not now when they could be near peak. Apple are actually vulnerable to change in "Fashion" and have very narrow range of product.

    But I agree it's terrible:

    DEC gets bought by Compaq and all the best stuff thrown away.

    HP buys Compaq and seems to chuck the best Compaq and HP stuff away in the Product rationalisation.

    HP was once a leading Test gear, semiconductor and optical device company. They became very successful at selling PCs and Laptops that frankly always seemed less than best.

    Do they make anything in US still or is it all Foxconn or other Chinese anyway?

    Obviously they think the best strategy is to copy IBM.

  14. James 51 Silver badge

    title

    Nokia is being hacked to death by an unimaginative boss and now the same thing is happening to HP. They are getting well paid to do it though. How do I get a job like that?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    I have a title somewhere

    So now those 250,000 odd tablets clogging up shops have become TOTALLY unsellable.

    "Buy this tablet! The company that made it quit the tablet market right after!"

    Worse than Nokia and Symbian

  16. dotdavid
    Facepalm

    HP + WebOS

    HP never really knew what to do with WebOS, I think their thought process went something like this;

    1) Apple is making loads of money in tablets and phones.

    2) Android is doing pretty well, but each OEM is making less money. I wonder why this is?

    3) Must be because Apple both own hardware and software!

    4) Hey if we buy Palm we'll have hardware and software. Then we'll be just like Apple and make loads of cash!

    Hopefully they'll sell WebOS to someone else. I'm guessing some of the less-successful Android OEMs will be interested, if there's any truth to the rumour that they're wary of Google now they own Motorola.

  17. WinHatter
    WTF?

    The tablet effect is quite real

    A tablet is the ultimate gizmo in the bludger's attire, right ahead of smartphone, people will always brag about the amount of (pretend) work they can now achieve on their tablet. Truth to be told most of computer users achieve sod all.

    Apple just "happens" to have some classy visual designs and a very carefully designed pricing policy that makes their products a wee bit expensive but within reach of your already maxed out credit card ... which makes them even more desirable.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Desperate

    I've just returned from the US - there's been quite a bit of marketing and sales to ship the WebOS devices and at one stage I thought the deals on offer were too good to be true. It turns out, had I gone for it, I'd have invested in an obsolete platform... just as those who invested in the latest Nokia phones less than 6 months ago found. HP used to be a superb engineering company - from calculators to some of the best test kit you could buy - the appointment of a new CEO, as Nokia found, can fundamentally change the company.

    El Reg and Reg readers are very critical of Apple and their customers. However, Apple must be doing something right - it's not just a few "Fanbois" buying the products. Yes, they can appear to be arrogant (I've read about the new Final Cut X) but overall they seem to be gaining market share and it can't all be about aluminium and nice looking products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Desparate

      You need to remember that El Reg and the readership are essentially techies first and foremost.

      Luckily for Apple, they sell to consumers. The things El Reg reading tech-heads hate about Apple products are things that normal consumers either don't care about (such as how big the spec numbers are, or how much the app developers get for each sale) or actually like (iTunes, the closed environment* etc.)

      Apple marketing is amongst the best in the world, the products are intuitive and easy for non-technically-literate people to use and the Apple stores are a much better environment to buy stuff in than the alternatives (PC World through something like Maplin).

      Ultimately though, the products look good and do a good job. Hell, why should all your tech kit have to look like it was designed by a 14 year old boy?

      *consumers don't actually care that the environment is closed as such, just that they don't have the problems of unverified software bricking their device or serious malware problems and they like that all their purchases are made through a single, consistent interface where all they have to do is click the "buy now" button, wait for a time and then have access to whatever it was they just bought.

      1. CyberCod

        Maybe for a little while

        Apple makes a good "first smartphone". Honestly, some never need to move beyond that. But a lot of people, after having an iphone for a couple years, find that they feel limited. And rightly so. I can tell you from experience that for those people, after ditching the Apple training wheels, and switching to Android, their general attitude toward the new OS is, "Feck Yeah! This is awesome! Apple can suck it!" I've seen this happen many times. I've also seen others who never want to let go of their iphone, mostly because they hate learning. These people generally have never fully realized what they can do with the iphone anyway, and hence, don't feel limited. To them, its a regular phone with email, music and web browsing. And very little more.

        As for HP, they've put out shitty products for years, have horrible support, overcharged repair service, and generally are only good at making printers, which is the only portion of that company that deserves to survive.

        They should just completely open source webOS and let people play with it. Perhaps we can succeed where they failed.

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Not marketing alone.

      There's more to it than that, you can buy marketing expertise but the product has to be good as well.

      With Apple the only choice is if you want 3G or not, the storage capacity and colour of the unit.

      If you go for a non-Apple tablet there's about 30 or so to choose from and if the price of the better ones is the same as the iPad then why take the risk?

      Also, there's masses of applications for the iPad and what good is a computer device without software? there's hardly anything for Android that takes advantage of the tablet's larger screen and resolution. Some Android fans have even been spinning that as a good thing!

  19. Chris Comley

    Too soon?

    I'm a little baffled that this is happening less than a month after the Touchpad launched. Were they expecting to out-perform Ipad sales in the first two weeks? World domination by tuesday lunchtime?

    I bought a touchpad early. The hardware is brilliant. WebOs is pretty good. The supplied apps are not bad though I had assumed they would be amenable to feedback and tweaking. They clearly needed to get more apps on board, I assumed this would happen and sat back to wait...

    This feels like they've put their shirt on a horse in the 2:30 at Epsom, then torn up the ticket in disgust before the horses are even out of the stalls...

    The only good news is, I've had my touchpad such a short time I shall surely have no trouble returning it for a full refund.

  20. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Fiorina in 'not worst boss of HP ever' shock?

    HP really have made a fist of this acquisition which let's face it means the end of WebOS. If the company who own it have no faith in its ability to shift boxes there's no chance another company is going to license WebOS for their own devices. So it looks like Palm is reduced to a nice set of patents to beat other tech companies about with.

    And the other thing is the astonishing rate of consolidation we're seeing right now - Nokia, Motorola and now HP all being rendered more or less irrelevant in mapping the future of mobile devices. And this news must surely lengthen the odds on RIM remaining independent for much longer.

  21. I understand now
    Thumb Down

    Did they really try hard enough?

    I can't recall any HP tablet adverts. As for lack of traction, I've heard plenty of "software is great, hardware is okay, but HP/Palm are neglecting it" from reviewers.

    I wonder who will fill the void.

  22. Miek

    Um, the real reason is ..

    .. probably, WebOS. I know it's not that bad, but no-one has been hyping it and (PCW frequenting) customers don't know anything about it. The market is all a-buzz with Android this and IOS that.

  23. Patrick R
    Facepalm

    ... People want iPads.

    Remember at the time the iPad came out, not that long ago ? Everybody laughed wondering "yeah, nice but what can you do with it ?". From there the conclusion that only iFans would buy it, of course the one and only iThing from the very iMaker! Why does everybody suddenly think they can make and sell their own ?

  24. jason 7
    Unhappy

    Real shame.

    I bought a Palm Pre 2 a few weeks ago really cheap and its the best phone I've ever had. The OS is superb. Really easy to use and setup. Hasnt crashed or locked up once. Its brilliant.

    Maybe I'll pick up a really cheap Pre 3 in a few weeks time then?

    As mentioned earlier this is what happens to companies when their exec get made up totally of accountants rather than the original people who thought up and worked in the business in the first place.

    When I left the company I put 20 years into it was actually seen as a negative against you if you had actually worked in the real part of the business and knew how it worked. Basically because the few of us who had, could pick holes in the muppets who had never met a customer but were making all the decisions and taking us away from our core business.

  25. jeremyjh

    Oh dear

    Apple fans were always going to go wild for the iPad. It's an aspirational product and they know how to use it already. But Apple fans buy expensive hardware and want the newest, shiniest thing. It's not the 'cult of Jobs' aspect that drives huge sales - it's Apple's power with the people who have the money in their wallets to buy the kit.

    For everyone else, I don't think it's just that other tablets are in Apple's huge shadow that causes the problem. I think that at the root of this, there's also something to be said for the fact that replacing computers is, for the home user, becoming more optional.

    I've been replacing my laptops every three years - an Evesham (I know), then a Dell (again), and most recently one of those shiny new MacBook Pro 13" jobs. The first one I replaced because it was single-core and low on RAM, and it wasn't keeping up with everything I wanted to do with it. But the Dell was still perfectly fast and looked the part after three years of moderate use and despite running Vista. I replaced it only because the case was starting to fail - and now it will be reused as a backup and media streaming device - after all, it runs quietly.

    I haven't bought an iPad. And I won't be buying any sort of tablet. This isn't because I don't want one. I can afford one too. But there's no compelling use case for which one of my existing devices won't do a very good job. And that would be the same if I hadn't bought a MacBook.

    Recession or no recession, people don't want to spend the thick end of £500 on something that doesn't make their life that much easier, unless they only care about the shiny. And if you care about the shiny, then Apple's the brand for it. HP aren't cool like Apple are, despite the loveliness of WebOS.

  26. bamalam
    FAIL

    A poor short term decision

    HP will regret this and as others have pointed out they could learn from Apple who have retained control over their own destiny hardware and software wise after a real difficult period in the mid-90's.

    A great shame.

  27. A Butler

    The board: fire Apotheker over the weekend - reverse these changes.

    Leo Apotheker has obviously had a mental breakdown.

    HP the largest PC vendor and most efficient spinning off the business.

    WebOS a great OS, the Touchpad while a bit bulky is brilliant (hand up I have one) however to kill the product less than 2 months after the US launch especially with the christmas market on the way and a lot of leverage on the price left, looney move.

    Can the remaining board members of HP club together over the weekend and get rid of Apotheker, reverse these changes and heavily discount the touchpad. They want to kill off a division they can start with Itanium.

    1. BitDr

      Board needs dicipline too...

      I think h/p is making a huge mistake, the CEO should be fired and the board taken out behind the wood-shed and have some sense knocked into them (they had to approve the plan). Hewlett Packard is acting like a Hyper-active-attention-deficit-disordered individual. The product is on the market for what, 5 or 6 weeks and they scuttle it, it's brethren, and the WEB O/S, writing off all the investments as a loss because their baby did not catch on like wild-fire in the first month or two?

      Until a few days ago I would have characterized h/p as a strong company with good direction and products that people purchased because they (for the most part) work well with broad platform support. I would now characterize them as a company that has lost the confidence of its shareholders (stock price dropped like a stone), lost its' customer base (well, dumped its' customer base is more like it), and is about to sail straight into an iceberg.

  28. bahamut
    Mushroom

    the age of mac

    oh I can see "the age of mac" coming. You don't know exactly what hardware is in your system, know nothing about it`s performance. You can choose from 2-3 configs to customize your machine, but only by the manufacturer, you can't buy computer parts on the market, only full configs. The only thing you know is that it's shinee. And if somebody wants to buy a strong machine, have to pay in the category of servers.

    1. bygjohn

      Hate to break the news to you...

      ... But this is actually what most non-techy people do already. Which is why Apple are making money hand over fist. Sorry, ordinary people increasingly just want something that does what they want, with minimal hassle. They don't generally mess about changing bits of the thing's innards.

  29. Trevor Zettler

    Perhaps he's confused the meaning of the word secular

    Perhaps Mr. Apotheker has got the meaning completely backward. He may mean to say that the tablet consumer market is driven by cult like worshipping (akin to religion) rather than by specifications. In such a market, HP (without fanbois) will be hard pressed to compete regardless of the quality of the product that they may produce.

  30. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Obviously it's some kind of state sponsored industrial sabotage

    To destroy technology companies from the inside by getting idiot CEOs appointed who can't think beyond the next quarter (Nokia anyone?).

    Ye Gods, they actually think they're going to out-IBM IBM yet who'd touch their in-house software after seeing how much their printer drivers weigh in at and Integrity servers which can't even compile floating point constants if the locale is set up to be different to "C".

    Yet with WebOS they actually had something decent and their laptops do have a reputation for reliability. Obviously this state of affairs must not be allowed to continue.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    It's only a matter of time...

    Until someone at the Department of Justice starts bringing up the M-Word in conjunction with Apple.

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