Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

Summary: The PC space is not one known for product innovation with the exception of Apple. HP has always been a conservative company, but with Palm DNA has the chance to shake things up.


Big business has a tendency to squash innovative products, as bringing them to market is a risk. Companies may be able to envision and plan innovative gadgets but they rarely bring them to market. This is the reason Apple has been standing out from the crowd for so long, as detailed brilliantly by PC World.

If you want to make the product that everyone else compares their product to, you have to go outside the envelope. You have to take a risk to build something nobody has told you they want, because they don’t know they want it yet, and then you have to invest in it and stick with it until you get it right.

This describes the difference between Apple and other companies in the computing space (including mobile technology). You cannot just listen to what your customers say they want, because you'll only get more of the same. Your customers lack the vision that true innovation requires.

HP is in a unique position to step forward in an innovative way due to the acquisition of Palm that resulted in the TouchPad tablet. The PC maker can leverage this innovative direction, but only if the Palm DNA is allowed to flourish inside the HP campus. Please HP, do not squash the DNA that produces unique and innovative technology, nurture it. I know that you say you will, but if you realistically examine your history you have not really pushed the envelope in computing and stuck with it even when you have innovated.

I remember the tc1000, a hybrid Tablet PC that pushed PC technology to its limits. The thin slate, even by today's standards almost a decade later, that detached from the keyboard for use as a pure tablet was sheer genius. The problem is the Tablet PC was not a genre that caught on with the mainstream, so you dropped this product line like a hot potato. You switched to the safe convertible tablet model like everyone else. You weren't willing or ready to stick with it simply because it was innovative. Truth is had you stuck with the tc1000/1100 it could have evolved by now into a computing solution that rivals the iPad.

I have attended many meetings with your executives, HP, and every time I have inquired about product development that pushes the envelope of existing products in the market, your answer has always been the same. "Our customers tell us they want..." is always your response, and this never leads to innovation. Your customers cannot possibly know they want something they have never seen before, the very definition of innovation as PC World pointed out. You have to show them what they want once you produce it on your own.

HP you are in the position to do that with webOS, which can produce innovation across your entire product line. But you can't do that simply by listening to your customers, you must listen to the Palm team now on your campus. They have a history of innovation if not one of solid business moves, and that should be ingrained into the HP way. You have the opportunity to step up and shake the conservative PC world up just as Apple continues to do regularly, but only if you let it happen.

Image credit: Flickr user Global X

Topics: Emerging Tech, CXO, Hewlett-Packard, Mobility

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  • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

    James, I have followed you just before the Netbook I got from you, an HP, and always find your insights to be closely inline with what I see. I did get the HP Touchpad last week and took it back yesterday as it was "Not ready for prime time" from what I found. As I do not "review" items I have to pick the overall best fit , as you previously pointed out, for my hard earned dollars. I did get the Thrive in place of it as it is an Android device to go along with my Android (running 2.3.5) phone. The Thrive has its own short comings as no Skype for video conferencing, as far as I could see as it would not work. I did get google chat to work, not very great sad to say. The replaceable battery and the extra ways to "plug in," use the less costly full SD cards, and placement of cameras can use in either L or P mode, far out way the few CURRENT short term issues.

    Long story short, Toshiba followed your column in this regard, they broke from the pack and I hope they are rewarded with lots of sales for this! Less cost, more features, open battery, various ways to connect are all pluses IMHO. The "brick" charger is let down as the USB will not charge the device as far as I can tell, however, the battery seems like it will last all day plus a 2nd one is less trouble that the "brick" charger.
    • Palm, MS, Hp and webOS

      Regarding your difficulties with Skype and your Android device, why not use the Skype app from your phone? Alternatively, join a local Linux User Group mailing list, or subscribe to a useful Android mailing list. In the true spirit of OpenSource, you would get the advice you need. Linux and Android are not just Oses they are also thriving communities of generous people.
  • Latest of 'Palm DNA' is just former Apple staff who thought they could ...

    ... develop ideas with somewhat different approach than Steven Jobs chose.<br><br>These employees left Apple in 2005-2007 years, exactly in time when the company was working on iPhone/iPad.<br><br>So even with Palm DNA what actually in place is Apple's DNA. ;))
    • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

      @DeRSSS <br><br>True. If we look at ex Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein himself, former NeXT and Apple engineer and the person behind the iPod. It is said that one of the reason he left Apple was his disagreement with Jobs on the iPhones strategy with regards to no physical Keyboards and the whole convergence direction of the phone. <br><br>Hence the Palm Pre's small hardware design with slide-out keyboard at a time when the world was enjoying full 3.5" and up multi-touch screens without physical keyboards. He got it totally wrong as head of Palm, betting on a small phone that made phone calls while Jobs was betting on a convergence computer device in your pocket. Palm failed and he is now demoted at HP.
      • Palm board lost their nerve

        Palm was innovative, had a great OS and even their Tungsten W phone was fantastic. WinCE came along and HP and Compaq with no thought of innovation took it on, and then Windows Mobile after that. Windows was a dog of a mobile OS, but the board at Palm blinked, and jumped into bed with their enemy. Hard lesson, and Nokia may yet prove the mistake again. The Palm OS was superior in every way to the clunky and resource hungry Windows offering, it was faster and enjoyed amazing battery life. If a rewrite was necessary it should have been with an embedded Linux, and using as a Mobile Office suite. But did not build a mobile version, and Palm did not create their own newer OS - until the Company was embalmed for burial. Then it was too late. Apple had caught the imagination of the Mobile Market, and was the darling for a while until a more Open system and ecosystem came along, which allowed users to handle and distribute their music on their various devices in any way they saw fit. And Android started its takeover of the Mobile Market.

        Yes the staff at HP, well some of them, anyway, may have Palm DNA , but if they still have the gene of fear, it will be game over.
  • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

    James I work for HP AND used to own a tc1000 and you are absolutely correct here (save for the "thin by todays standards" comment, the tc1100 was near double the thickness of the supposedly "fat" TouchPad).

    A thinner version of the tc1100 released today would be a MONSTER. Beside what you said, other issues for the tc1100 was that it was marketed EXCLUSIVELY through business channels and cost between 1500 and 2,000. That is several times more than todays IOS Android and webOS slates.

    With today's lower costs, imagine if the TouchPad for example was designed with a thinner version of the hardware of the tc1100. With that snap-in keyboard, scroll wheel, ports, solid build etc?

    With the future "webOS on Windows PCs" plans that are announced THAT combination on a thinner tc1100 type device would literally make me cry tears of joy.

    Rather than the need to cut costs to compete, we could make it a premium alternative and charge 800.00 and sell MORE units that the TouchPad, despite the premium price.

    Unlike the competition it WOULD be able to have that wonderful mobile slate webOS experience AND replace your laptop with the keyboard and Windows 7, justifying the premium price.
  • But is that not the problem HP has that you do not, Mr. Kendrick?

    It is easy to say "push the envelope and take a chance" when it is not your money you are risking. Should they fail, it does not affect your finances in any way.

    Unlike Apple that took a chance and succeeded, Apple could have easily failed with their iPod line (which would have kept the iPad from ever being conceived), yet still remain a healthy company selling their line of Mac products, with no other Mac competitors to worry about as they do not license out their OS.

    If HP decides what their customers want and fail, then Dell, Acer, or Lenovo will come in to take their customers by giving them what they want.
    Tim Cook
    • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

      @Mister Spock,

      That sound "logical" but it is not. HP does not need to "stop" giving people what they "say" they want. No market share need be lost to companies that don't innovate.

      The idea is to "add" more innovative products to the arsenal.

      Frankly, that is already underway with webOS.
  • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

    HP pretty much set the bar as far as netbooks go back in 2008 with the 2133 - every refresh they've done has built on that model, with improvements and price drops.

    I wouldn't be too worried about their TouchPad and Slate products getting the same treatment. We're still talking first-generation hardware here. The slates on sale this year are nothing like what will be on sale two years from now.
  • Funny you mentioned the tc1000

    Because 9 years ago when HP released it, apparently they infringed on Apple's design patent for a product Apple hadn't designed yet and didn't have a patent for! ;)
    • Just took a look at it and no...

      @chmod 777.. Does not look anything like an iPad. It's a good example of a device that could be marketed and not face a Trade Dress problem from Apple actually. It's externals are clearly different and it's ports/connectors are different. Based on the picture I saw it looks like its not even the same color.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • Words of Steve Jobs

    "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

    "It?s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don?t know what they want until you show it to them."

    "You can?t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they?ll want something new. "

    "Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren?t used to an environment where excellence is expected."

    "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works"

    ?In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.?
    • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

      you forgot the most important statement from Jobs "copy like hell, claim it as your own and always maintain an elitist attitude."
      • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

        @Guilden_NL While I agree, I do believe that Apple adds major value to the inventions they duplicate. Apple is one of the best industrial design firms in the world. They take an idea like tablet computing, which has been around forever, then wrap it in a hardware design that looks like art with a user interface which feels like you've always known how to operate it. People pick it up in a store and immediately know how to use it. Further, it somehow feels sexy in their hands. This creates instant techno-lust and generates sales like crazy. In reality, the hardware specs on the iPad are inferior to nearly everything out there, but it somehow rises above all of the specs to be a superior whole. That's due solely to superior design.

        What annoys me is Apple's overuse of the term "revolutionary" when their products clearly aren't. Now, if they said the _design_ was "revolutionary" I'd buy that. But the products are always a beautiful and clever redesign of an existing innovative idea. Like I said, Apple is an amazing industrial design firm.
  • Big accounts drive mediocrity

    Most companies do not do any marketing. They don't even know what marketing is. They equate the term with advertising and promotion, combine the function in the org chart with the sales department, and then let the top sales guys who have the biggest accounts drive product development. The result is the breeding of ever-larger, ever-faster horses... And no work on those new-fangled automobiles.

    Consumer products companies are better at marketing because they don't have single customers who will promise to buy 5,000 of something if you'll build it. So there's no one at the meetings where they parcel out the R&D budget saying, "we have to build an upgrade to the X5000 or Goliath Corp. will go with our competitor." Instead there are only guys on ZDNet saying, "I'll never buy anything from that Steve Jobs because he has cloven hooves and horns on his head," and nobody cares because those are one-off sales.
    Robert Hahn
  • Hmmmmm

    Cell phones, digital cameras, laptop computers, flat screen displays, etc, etc, are not innovations?
    Unless of course you mean overpriced "flash and fluff" are innovations!
  • The PC space is conservative because...

    ...the monopoly and the increasing power that Microsoft has as well as its collusion with OEMs, Intel, and retailers.
  • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

    Sorry James,

    In my experience, the company that buys you, knows best. After all, didn't they buy you? They'll make you adhere to company policies and edicts.

    They are superior, they purchased you. You are inferior, and should be grateful they saved you.

    The funny thing is that they will pay lip service to how much they will learn from you, and say some really smart things. But, after all, what could you teach them?

  • RE: Dear HP: Do not squash the Palm DNA for innovation

    Oh boy, if you only knew the truth. It is the other way round! The Palm boys move like dinosaurs and have tin ears when it comes to suggestions for innovation.