Leo Apotheker's HP never wanted webOS to succeed

Take a close look at HP's radical makeover's timing: The company never gave webOS a chance. Apotheker came in meaning to transform the company into his old home: SAP.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

I liked webOS, HP's Linux-based take on a tablet operating system. I thought it had a shot to be a tablet player. But, then, Leo Apotheker, HP's new CEO, along with spinning off HP's PC business, killed webOS. Was it because, as Apotheker said, the tablet effect is real and sales of the TouchPad are not meeting our expectations,” and that the TouchPad was quickly becoming a money pit? No, no it wasn't.

Yes, webOS and the TouchPad were doing badly on the market. But, so what? A company the size of HP doesn't get out of the consumer PC market and new tablets and spin around on a dime because it can't be as “as cool as Apple.” No, it does so because Apotheker and his cronies had planned for months to try to transform HP into their old company, SAP, and go head to head not so much with IBM, but his old sparring partner, Oracle.

While HP's rank and file continued to work on its PCs and took the TouchPad to market, Apotheker was replacing HP's top-level brass with his old friends from SAP. Apotheker never intended for HP to become an Apple competitor; his plan was to recreate the gray, enterprise business of SAP that was his comfort zone.

Autonomy, his new purchase and ticket back to enterprise computing, is best known for business intelligence (BI) and business analytics. The company, however, is not a big name BI firm. All the financial analysts, and I mean all of them, think that the acquisition, at a cool $10-billion, was a waste of money and a poor strategic move. The market agrees. As I write this HP's stock has sunk to a six year low.

God knows who will buy HP's PC business, no one else has a clue. Michael Dell, CEO of Dell computer, made a snarky comment that perhaps HP should just spin off its PC business into a new company and call it Compaq. Ow!

What I think happened is that Apotheker never seriously considered supporting webOS or HP's PC business. He was just letting the PC division and the former Palm group go through the motions while he was setting up his long term strategic vision: Recreating his own version of SAP to complete with IBM. Good luck with that.

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