Hewlett-Packard: A Once Formidable Company

A once formidable company in the 60s and 70s during the Silicon Valley tech boom; now teetering on thin rope. If you just look at history, you would know that practically every engineer in their 20s wanted to work for Hewlett-Packard during that time period. Now, HP seems to be just an empty shell of hopelessness and despair. CEOs have come and gone as quickly as the tides change, and they now more so than ever need solid direction.

Meg Whitman is now running the show, and it remains to be seen what she will be able to do with the company. I’m not convinced that she has what it takes to really kick ass and take names, but I will remain hopeful. The first thing that I would do if I was her, would be to get rid of these bozos running the board. Fresh blood is needed at HP — badly.

The Verge:

It’s really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision. If HP decides [to keep webOS], we’re going to do it in a very significant way over a multi-year period. It’s a very expensive proposition, but HP can make that bet.

What spectacular products is HP exactly putting out right now? I can’t think of one that comes to mind. Printers? Okay sure, lots of people buy their printers, but that’s a commodity item, and there isn’t much innovation to be had in that space.

What about HP’s other product lines that do fairly well? Last time I checked, their enterprise servers were doing okay. It just seems that they need to slim down the company and refocus their efforts on what they do well. They only seem to do one consumer product well, and that’s printers. As far as enterprise stuff is concerned, it’s servers. Is ditching the consumer PC market a good idea? I would say yes, but also the answer isn’t just to shift the majority of the companies focus to enterprise software services.

Here’s how I would restructure HP:

  • Replace the current board of directors
  • Get out of the consumer PC market. You’re done there.
  • Find someone who will buy webOS and actually take care of it. Perhaps open source it.
  • Get rid of out support customer support, and bring it back to North America. Focus on taking care of your customers properly.

Regarding webOS

I still believe they have the talent and resources to do something awesome with it. The problem is their erratic management team. They simply can’t figure out what to do with this product, and that’s just sad. I don’t know who would even be a contender for buying webOS, however with the right resources and time, something great could be made. Let’s consider this: we know there are a ton of webOS fans, even among iOS users who really appreciate some of its design conventions. Hypothetically speaking, if HP could release a new fully touch capable webOS enabled smartphone right now, and it had spectacular cutting-edge technology, it could potentially sell well.

Who would a great webOS smartphone appeal to?

Other than existing fans, a portion of existing iPhone customers could be lured in, not to mention existing iOS developers. I know there are plenty of iOS developers who would love to develop for webOS — assuming a clear future for the platform was on the horizon of course. By the way, you can count me in as being interested in a solid webOS smartphone. I’m not saying I’d ditch my iPhone, but it really is an interesting OS with great multi-tasking capabilities. I had a chance to play around with a TouchPad while they were still available, and if it were not for the lack-lustre hardware and unpolished performance of the software, it really could be something. I don’t think this is a magical formula, but it obviously isn’t so easy either — otherwise every ODM out there would be making phones on par with the iPhone 4/4S as far as level of polish is concerned.

Focus on making one webOS smartphone product, and make it great

They can forget about smartphones with physical keyboards. Those are dead. They only need focus on one device: a superb fully touch capacitive smartphone with a high resolution screen (upwards of 300 DPI). Also, it has to be fast and not laggy.

This should be HP’s design and engineering teams mantra (make it a poster plastered on the walls):

  • Touch input needs to be precise, or we’ve failed.
  • Scrolling lists need to be butter sooth, or we’ve failed.
  • Battery life needs to be competitive with an iPhone, or we’ve failed.
  • A great set of easy to use developer tools to spur a great ecosystem, or we’ve failed.

Fix your customer facing image

One more thing. Have you visited HP’s website lately? It’s a designers nightmare. It’s like they absolutely have no care in the world for usability. This lack of attention and care on their own website, reflects their own lack of attention and care in the products they make. You would think there would be a project manager who could corral some designers and user interaction experts to fix this stuff. I have some ideas on what they could do, and I just may sketch some of that out and share them. It pains me to see companies with potential that keep doing stupid things.