Shane Robison retiring from HP Chief of Strategy and Technology, taking his stapler with him 15
It has been an interesting journey for the HP webOS Global Business Unit over the past several months, especially when it comes to learning the names of all the executives that have come and gone. First their was Senior VP Jon Rubinstein (former Palm CEO) operating under Executive VP Todd Bradley (also a former Palm CEO), who was under CEO Mark Hurd. Hurd was kicked out and replaced by Leo Apotheker. Rubinstein was replaced by Shane DeWitt. the webOS GBU was split in two, with hardware staying under DeWitt and software going to the HP Office of Strategy and Technology under incubator-in-chief Shane Robison. And then Apotheker was forced out and replaced by Meg Whitman. Now it's time to get ready for a new name, as Robison is retiring from HP and taking his office with him.
After eleven years at HP, during which time Robison helped coordinate the merger with Compaq, Robison is retiring from leading the company's multi-billion dollar research and development fund. Robison's due to retire effective 1 November 2011, and HP has no plans to fill his chair with a fresh body. According to their press release, "in an effort to drive strategy, research and development closer to the company’s businesses, it will not be replacing the role of chief strategy and technology officer."
What does that mean for webOS? We're not entirely sure, but it sounds like yet another reorganization is about to take place. If Robison's position no longer exists and HP wants to move R&D "closer to the businesses", it stands to reason that the Office of Strategy and Technology itself is to be disbanded. For groups like HP Cloud Services, Vertica, and Business Solutions there are branches of HP such as Enterprise Servers, Storage, Networking and Technology Services under Dave Donatelli, or John Visentin's Enterprise Services.
webOS, however, is in an odd situation. Assuming that HP is to keep it (and we're not sure that they are), there's not really a good fit for it somewhere in HP's current structure. the webOS GBU started out under the Personal Systems Group, but that was in part due to the hardware component of the business (the PSG being HP's consumer computers division). With the hardware part of the webOS GBU since severed and laid off, there's little reason for the software group to return to the PSG (unless HP intends to restart webOS device development what would be one of the greatest corporate strategy reversals of all time). There's the HP Software division, headed by Bill Veghte, but it's all enterprise software and IT management.
It really all depends on what HP intends to do with webOS. If they're going to keep it, it's further dependent upon if they go the licensing route (where HP Software would make the most (if little) sense) or making hardware again (PSG). But if they're going to sell webOS, it really doesn't matter, they'll just need a division to babysit while the new owner drives over to pick up their new toy. And if HP hasn't figured out what to do with webOS by now - or hasn't managed to find a buyer - it doesn't really matter. New CEO Meg Whitman doesn't seem to be one for wasting time or money, hence the likely closure of the Office of Strategy and Technology. If they're not going to do anything with webOS… well, we don't like where this train of thought is going, so we're going to stop before we reach the end of the tracks.
Farewell Shane, we barely knew ya. No, seriously, we really didn't get the chance to know you at all. It's been what, six weeks?