Alright, HP, let's work this out... [editorial] 59
What follows is what transpired inside my head today. It may not be as cathartic as some of my earlier rants, and the narrative styling might be a bit on the, shall we way, strange side. It is what it is.
The sky outside the office window was a muted gray, in so much as gray can be muted. The sun hadn’t been visible all day, and if not for the clock on his Touchstone-docked TouchPad, Derek would have struggled to tell what time it was. He stood facing the window staring blankly at the sullen sky, his hands shoved into his pockets and his shoulders slouched. He’d heard the chatter around the office, and it wasn’t looking good.
A knock at the door behind his back broke Derek from his trance. He turned around, finding HP standing in the doorway. Her blue shield looked more dulled and beaten than ever before. The sky visible in the window beyond was a muted gray, in so much as gray can be muted. They made eye contact for what seemed like an eternity. Over the past few years their relationship had been the emotional equivalent of a roller coaster, replete with spells of burning desire and cold detachment from both sides, often in opposition. But recently it had been more subdued, almost morose in nature. They’d known months ago that this day would eventually come, that they’d have to make a decision and move forward with it. From the look in HP’s eyes, Derek could tell that decision had been made.
Derek walked past his desk, pointing an open hand at the pair of chairs on the back side of the desk, “Hey, have a seat.” He walked to a cabinet set into the wall, opened it up, and pulled out a bottle of scotch and two glasses. As HP quietly sat in the chair, he walked back around and sat in the other chair, opting for the closer more personal positioning instead of sitting coldly behind the desk, a mess of laptops, phones, and tablets between them.
The glasses klinked against the small glass table between the chairs. “So you’ve come to a decision?”
HP nodded, “I have.”
“Are you sure it’s the right one?”
“It’s the one I’ve made,” she said, staring at the glasses. “It’s not like we had many options left.”
Derek held onto the scotch as he sat, “Alright, let’s hear it.”
HP swallowed hard and looked back up at him, “Open source.”
He nodded slowly, tweaking his jaw to the side. “Alright, who did you line up to license it?”
She furrowed her brow, “It’s open source, they don’t have to license it.”
Derek absently waved a hand, “Yeah yeah, you know what I mean. Who’s going to use it?”
“I don’t know,” HP said sheepishly.
“I…” Derek struggled for words. He looked back up at the gray sky, slack-jawed, and then back to HP, “What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I mean nobody was really that interested.”
“Did you cut the asking price?”
Derek set the scotch on the table, “Did you drop that silly printers idea?”
“It’s not silly!” HP slapped the arms of her chair and stood. She walked away, heading for the window, “I wish you could see it how I do.”
“I’ve tried,” Derek leaned back in his chair, “But it just doesn’t make sense to me. How important can it possibly be?”
She shook her head, “It’s important.”
“So you didn’t drop it?”
HP crossed her arms and looked out the window, “No.”
“Even though everybody balked at it?” he questioned.
“I’m not dropping printers,” HP snapped over her shoulder. “It’s not negotiable.”
Derek pulled the stopper out of the top of the bottle, “So there’s really nobody lined up to make hardware?”
“I know Samsung and HTC turned you down,” Derek said, pouring scotch into a glass, “But Intel seemed pretty promising.” Met with silence, he sighed and prodded, “Printers?”
Derek sat the bottle down, dropping the stopper next to it. He picked up the glass, about half-filled with scotch, “You’re really stuck on this printers thing, aren’t you?”
“Will you just drop it?” HP grumbled.
“I will when you do.” He took a long sip of the scotch and exhaled loudly. “Open sourcing can be good. It worked out pretty well for Google.”
HP turned away from the window, leaning against the sill, “I know, right?”
Derek pointed a finger in the air, “Except they have more licensees than God.” He raised his eyebrows to her, “Are you going to make hardware again?”
“What do you mean maybe?” Derek asked from inside the glass, taking another sip.
HP dropped her hands by her side and looked over at the collection of webOS devices on the desk, “We did layoff the hardware team.”
Derek nodded, “Yeah, that you did.”
“We could still do it,” HP said. “It’d take a while. We’d have to rehire the old team,” she bobbled her head back and forth, “Or hire new people. The prototypes are in the vault, but they aren’t anywhere near ready for release.”
“Would they be worth releasing?”
HP sighed, “I need a drink.” She pushed off the window and walked back to the chairs.
Derek obliged, tipping the bottle over the second glass, “So we’re looking at a very long time before this goes anywhere.” He sat the bottle back down and handed the scotch-filled glass to her after she lowered herself back into the chair.
“So I have a question about all this.” He recapped, “You’re open sourcing webOS with the intention of maybe eventually making new hardware, and in the meantime hoping that somebody puts it onto other devices?” HP nodded, draining the scotch into her mouth. Derek continued, “So with Android already available, widely-adopted, and a light-year or two ahead of webOS, what manufacturer in their right mind would pick webOS?”
HP sat quietly, contemplating her empty glass.
Derek sat his glass on the table and reached out, putting a hand on HP’s shoulder, “Look, you know I like you, right?” She nodded sullenly. “You need a plan. ‘We’re going to open source it’ is not a plan. ‘We might eventually make devices’ is not a plan. Look, I know you want to make Windows 8 tablets.”
HP shrugged, not looking up, “I don’t know... Windows 8 seems pretty slick, but Microsoft doesn’t seem to have their act together on tablets.”
“And you do?” Derek laughed. He gently patted her shoulder and leaned back into his chair, “Look, I don’t want you to become this decade’s Symbian Foundation.”
She looked up, the pain from the remark clear in her eyes, “Ouch.”
Derek grabbed his glass again, “I want you to be successful. You’re HP, for Packard’s sake! You’ve done great things, amazing things. You just need to focus. Going open source doesn’t really sound like much of a commitment to me.”
“I’m stretched a little thin right now,” HP said. “It’s cost a lot to clean up Leo’s mess…”
Derek interjected with a growl, “Leo.” He narrowed his eyes, looking at nothing in particular.
“…I’d love to commit to new hardware right away, but I just don’t have the money.”
Derek finished the scotch left in his glass, sat it on the table, and leaned forward to reach out and grab the TouchPad off the charger on his desk. He couldn’t help but sigh, watching the Exhibition Mode display fade away to reveal a stack of cards. He flipped through them, finding an open document editor. It took a few taps to create a new document, in which he typed the words ‘THE PLAN’ across the top row.
He leaned over, handing the tablet to HP, “Let’s get started.”