Former HP chief technology officer Phil McKinney is probably the best person in the world to ask about what happened with Palm and how was it that the company HP acquired for $1.2 billion was effectively killed within just over a year. Somehow, this question never surfaced, though, until now.
McKinney answered it in an interview focusing around his new book “Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation.” The book is not about HP and Palm, but about innovation and innovation takes patience. HP didn’t have this patience after it switched CEOs and Leo Apotheker took over. Here’s the whole story in McKinney’s words:
[The Palm acquisition] was going to be a long term effort. Palm was struggling and HP was stepping in, doing the acquisition, and we were basically going to take three years hands-off. Palm was basically going to get cash infusions, resources, and expertise. But Palm was going to be given three years to basically get itself positioned to be a market leader in its space. Now, fast forward to July of 2011 and, one, you had a swap out of the CEOs - Leo comes in as the new CEO - and HP, for whatever reason - I was not a part of this decision - made the decision to kill it, one year into the three year program. This is an example of not committing long term to the resources and not having patience for innovation.
What we previously thought is that killing Palm and open sourcing webOS is a result of the platform not performing well enough, but this puts the Palm unit at HP in a different perspective. Of course, it’s a fact that webOS didn’t have a brilliant start, but with such a drastic cut in the time allowance from three to one year, it’s easier to see how pressure built up for ex-Palm engineers. It also explains why Meg Whitman took so long to figure out what to do next with the division.
Looking back at the past, what do you think were HP’s webOS chances if engineers had the three years they were promised?
Thumbnail image courtesy of Thomas Lohnes/AFP.