When I need to do some calculating, I pull out my 20-year-old HP calculator and calculate the fuck out of whatever needs calculation. When I need some marks on paper, my five-year-old HP laser printer prints the living shit out of that piece of paper, and I expect it will be fusing toner for many years to come. I’ve also got a couple of HP computers that work just fine, and they’re a slight cut above the usual commodity crap you get at Best Buy — that is, they appear to be the product of an engineering team that had a little more on their mind than wringing every last, single penny of optimization from their PC design.
So, it’s hard to watch yet another American company that is clearly capable of producing decent products get run into the ground by the morons in charge. First, Cara Carleton Fiorina bought Compaq with a big flourish, and all that got HP was two of everything in its PC line. HP never integrated Compaq, so it ended up selling PCs that looked like HP PCs, and PCs that looked like Compaq PCs. That’s death in a commodity business where making a lot of one thing is the key to profitability.
Then, Leo Apotheker flew in and bought Palm (WedbOS) almost exactly a year ago. Yesterday, he announced that they’re killing the Palm unit they just bought, in part because the rushed-to-market, crap Touchpad that was introduced a couple of months ago was a flop. From what I’ve seen, WebOS had a lot of potential if it was running on the right hardware. It takes more than a year to get that right, so Leo might as well have invited Carly to a bonfire and burned the $1.2 billion he paid for Palm.
I get that the commodity PC business is morphing into a non-commodity device business, and that Apple is eating everyone’s lunch because they’re building 30 million of one thing instead of one million of 30 things, but weak management at companies like HP is making it really easy for them. The rumbling sound being heard around Palo Alto today is Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard spinning in their graves.