From the Editor's Desk: Enyo departures and Memorial Day 29
If you've been visiting webOS Nation over the past two weeks, hanging out on Twitter, or even sending me emails, you may have noticed a distinct lack of my presence. No, I have not nor am I planning to bail on webOS. As some of you may know, I'm in the Ohio Army National Guard, and for the past two weeks I was cooped up at Camp Ravenna in northeastern Ohio, undergoing the test of wits, skills, and the ability to stay awake through unending PowerPoint briefings that is the U.S. Army's Warrior Leader Course. The two week course is meant to teach the fundamentals of leadership, which can really be boiled down to two points: set the example and communicate clearly and often. There is also the spending time out in the field running mock missions that put all of this to practice, but that's for another time.
Bye bye Enyo guys
If it seems like there hasn't been a lot of good news for webOS over the past few months, well, you're right. The webOS team has been beset by layoffs and what seems like a high-level departure every other week. Last week's loss of Matt McNulty and other key members of the Enyo application framework team were just the latest in a long string, but I can't help but be a little more disappointed by the move.
I'm not disappointed in Matt and the gang - they've done good work, but in the end this is their personal livelihood we're talking about. Google made a better offer than HP, and there's not much more to it. I have no doubt that they would have liked to stay at HP had the Palo Alto company been willing to make the appropriate offer, but money is money. If somebody offered me double the money I make now for a stable future blogging about pachyderms instead of smartphones, I'd be stupid to turn them down. Same goes for the Enyo team - they may not necessarily be getting a raise (though seeing how willing Google is to throw money around and how unwilling HP is, we suspect there were significant monetary advantages to taking Google up on their offer), but they are getting job security. There are a hundred different projects at Google where the Enyo team's expertise in web-based application frameworks could be applied.
Which leads to a very serious question: just how committed is HP to webOS? Yes, it's an open source project, but for it to stand any chance of success it needs serious backing by HP. That serious backing isn't money - it's what money can buy. When we're talking about software, that's two things: other software and talented people. The drain of personnel out of Sunnyvale is alarming, and even though HP says they're hiring, who would take a job working on an operating system with a questionable future at a company that's so battered that they're going to lay off eight percent of their total workforce?
webOS may be heading towards open source, but for Open webOS to work it's going to need talented people to join and stay with HP for the long term. HP needs to get serious about keeping who they've got left and recruiting who they want on board. When practically an entire team responsible for a critical component of your product strategy jumps ship all at once, well, there's not much bigger sign of a problem.
Today is Memorial Day in the United States. If you're a student, it's a day off school. If you watch TV, the commercials will tell you it's a day for department store sales. If you're on the internet, it's a day for, well, it's just another day for pictures of cats and videos of stupid people doing stupid things.
As I said at the outset of this editorial, I wear the uniform of the United States Army. I'm not a frontline infantry soldier or tank driver. I'm in the band, I make music to keep the troops, their families, and the public entertained and morale up as best as I can.
This Saturday, my unit (the 122nd Army Band) participated in Westerville, Ohio's Field of Heroes event. We put on a concert of patriotic music for the public, framed all around by 2,500 American flags. It wasn't a large crowd, but it was still a sight to behold.
In addition to being in the band, I'm also a member of the Ohio Army National Guard's Military Funeral Honors team. You could say it's my "day job", though like blogging about smartphones, it's not exactly a typical job. Usually six days a week, I'm out taking American flags off of the caskets of deceased veterans, folding them, and presenting them to their surviving loved ones. One year ago I wrote about this job at length, but suffice to say it can be an emotional one to perform on a daily basis. I believe that I've grown a lot in the time I've been doing this, and I've gained a lot of perspective in the course of more than one thousand funerals.
There are 2.9 million people in the United States that have all volunteered to wear the uniforms of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. They've all signed on the dotted line knowing full well that they could be asked to lay down their lives for the other 308 million Americans who decided not to make that choice. That's not to denigrate those that haven't joined the military, it's not for everybody. In fact, it's not for most people, and there's nothing wrong with that. If everybody was in the military, then there'd be nothing left at home to defend. That the United States needs less than one percent of its population to volunteer to be ready to defend its people and interests from unpredictable threats around the globe is a testament to those who do put on that uniform.
So while Memorial Day might be close to drawing to a close, don't let the last Monday in May, the fourth of July, and the eleventh of November (that's Veterans Day in the USA, Armistice Day elsewhere in the world) be the only days you pay respect to those that have worn or now wear the uniform of their country. They've stood up and said that they are willing to lay down their life to save yours, should it come to that. The Steve Jobses and Bill Gateses and Larry Pages and Sergei Brins of this world have accomplished remarkable things and improved our world, but they're not heroes. They're designers, businessmen, and coders. They make computers. It's the soldier and the sailor and the airman that build countries that allow them to prosper.