Reader Commentary: How could HP be so stupid?

The following commentary is a guest post written by BetaNews reader Avatar X. A blogger from Mexico City, he has done software and tech reviews for the last 10 years.

One week ago today, 18 of August of 2011, HP discontinued webOS devices (Pre and TouchPad) and also announced their intention to sell or spin-off their PC business, in order to concentrate in the more lucrative and higher-margin markets of servers, cloud services and enterprise software.

I am shocked about how incredibly bad webOS devices did out in the market, considering how actually good the OS is. But I am not shocked with HP's decision to phase out the devices. Continuing with the same hardware design as the Pre is one of the most stupid decisions HP could have made after they bought Palm.

Likewise -- announcing much of their gameplay 6 months in advance and then executing it so slowly that it made Research in Motion's bumbling PlayBook look good by comparison. HP's response was painfully slow, their marketing plan was non-existent and they have gone a long way to piss off previous Palm users. It's baffling.

Why didn't HP just quickly put webOS 2.0 on a netbook? Enthusiasts have done it. HP couldn't? Why if still going with the same hardware design as the previous models didn't HP also add a 4-inch screen-size webOS smartphone?. Because that is what most people wanted to see. Why copy the iPad 9.7-inch's screen size for the TouchPad when an 8-incher or 11-incher would instantly make the tablet something different?

The answers? Who knows!

What's more shocking to me than the discontinuation of webOS devices: HP didn't give a clear message about what they plan to do in this segment. Their message is vague and not at all confident in the phrasing.

"We want to put webOS in cars". "We would like to license it". "We will see what our options are next". (I am intentionally paraphrasing the quotes from HP's conference call a week ago.)

Compared to saying something like: "We are putting webOS in cars and there is development. We are going to license webOS, and we have now talked with this company and that company. All options will be explored, and we are open to talk to anyone". Unless there is an interview or a statement I have not seen yet, HP didn't articulate it that way at all.

Then there was HP's other shocking news: they want to be a servers, cloud services and enterprise software focused company. Wow, now there is a bold statement. HP software has always been overall decent, and they have done some great software adaptations and explorations in Windows and beyond -- like Touchsmart, HP MIO (with Ubuntu) and the never released (that I know of) similar implementation for the HP Slate 500, which they also stupidly killed too soon because of strategy changes after buying Palm. It is hard to put my head around HP turning into a mainly servers, software and services company. (Yes, even if they will be doing it so via a buy of Autonomy ES for $10 billion dollars, HP will still have to work that in with them and now it).

It is my impression that HP CEO Leo Apotheker may be a bit misguided, or the role of CEO in a company like HP may be too consumer centered for him, and he may be gearing the company to an area he is more proficient in. After all, remember this guy was the CEO of SAP.

The whole thing is a bit strange and perturbing, but whatever. HP's board surely has shown they know how to make the right decisions before right? Right?

HP's shocking news -- no less so a week later -- must have made Michael Dell's (Dell), Zhentang Wang's (Acer) and Steve Ballmer's (Microsoft) day. Ditto for anyone invested in those companies. As for who would could have seen the news as just something to ponder on? I would mainly put that on IBM and Oracle.

All that remains: seeing how all this plays out.

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