Stephen DeWitt, new webOS GBU head, approaching webOS as a salesman | webOS Nation

Stephen DeWitt, new webOS GBU head, approaching webOS as a salesman 64

by Derek Kessler Tue, 12 Jul 2011 10:17 pm EDT

Stephen DeWitt has been in charge of HP’s webOS Global Business Unit for just a day now and he’s already been pressed into the interview circuit. DeWitt took the time to talk with Engadget and mocoNews about his new role and how the webOS GBU is planning to continue moving forward.

First and foremost, DeWitt made it clear that his placement as the new head of webOS was not a reaction to the lukewarm launch of the HP TouchPad. It was about placing an experienced global sales manager – DeWitt, who comes to webOS from leading HP’s Personal Systems Group Americas – to manage what HP hopes will be a rapid expansion of the webOS group.

At the same time, it was also about positioning now-former Palm GBU head Jon Rubinstein, who DeWitt called a “national treasure”, in a position where he could best exert his talents. That position happens to be as the SVP of Product Innovation for the entire Personal Systems Group, where Rubinstein will be able to put his engineering touch on HP’s personal computing systems as well as future webOS devices. Rubinstein’s going to be closely involved with webOS for now, after all, he led Palm for over two years. Disappointing as some of his tenure may have been, Rubinstein should know what’s going on, and DeWitt’s going to have to lean on him for support.

Addressing the lukewarm reception of the TouchPad, DeWitt revealed that July 1st was in fact a “soft launch,” and that July 17th would bring the real launch with loads of advertising from HP and their retail partners. The 17th should also bring the launch of the HP MovieStore on the TouchPad, and soon after will follow the first over-the-air update to webOS 3.0. The update is said to bring features that HP was working on but couldn’t finish in time, bug fixes, and even changes made in response to the early reviews and reactions towards the TouchPad.

DeWitt brings to the table a wealth of experience in global scale and sales. During his tenure as the head of PSG Americas, DeWitt oversaw the launch and expansion of nearly 275 HP Stores across South America, not to mention increased sales, share, and profit for the entire PSG. While HP’s not planning to bring their brand store model from Caracas to Kansas, they are working closely with retailers like Staples and Best Buy to craft a good sales experience for webOS products. That said, if what we’ve seen so far (laggy, frozen, and just plain dead TouchPads out on display) is any indication of that close cooperation, DeWitt’s going to have to kick things up a notch to get the massive employee bases of these retailers involved.

Part of that experience we’re glad to see is that DeWitt understands it’s not about the device or the OS or the apps or the support – it’s about how all of that is combined to create an experience. And right now, the TouchPad experience is lacking in some ways, and he acknowledges that and that HP is working to plug those gaps and take things a step beyond. As he said to Engadget, “My hope is that in six months we're going to have a discussion about all of the new stuff that we brought to the market, all of the innovation that we've brought to the market, not just playing catch up.” Amen.

Check out the full interviews at the source links below.

Source: Engadget, mocoNews


He gave a great interview to Engadget. Very good speaker, not bad looking either.

Well, at least you think he's good looking. That's something. Personally, I'd prefer someone honest.

"We have all of the key apps out, and we're going to have a ton more every day."
Really? Office editing software is very much key. Especially when any kind of enterprise use is mentioned. Is it there? NO. Why didn't they call him out on that?

(What can we expect for the 17th? "That's our official retail launch date." "This is one of the slings and arrows that you get by showing products before they're ready for the reviewer community"

Wait, you were selling products on the floor of Best Buy and through Amazon, etc, that weren't launched? That weren't ready for reviewers...? But they were ready for customers?????? That's some serious bullshit.

Jon had problems that lead us down a bad path. I don't think this guy is going to make it any better with this line of ****

He said they are on aggressive phone and tablet plan, I wonder how aggressive was Ruby, since that's what he is acquiring for the moment, till he whittles down his own plan

Ruby is being put out to pasture. They will spin it like he is helping get WebOS "everywhere" on devices of all kinds, but the dude was bringing them down.

I agree, the plan sounds great! I just hope they actually follow through and deliver this time. :-/

Amen indeed! I am pulling for this guy.

I enjoyed reading the full interview on Engadget and it actually made me feel excited again for what "the coming months" might bring. Granted, he avoided those words, but he came close to them a couple times. The guy is a straight shooter and says they have lots in the hopper. Looking forward to that!
I just want them to bring "the wave" gesture back for the TouchPad. There are other gestures that they could utilize using the first row of pixels on the bottom and sides, but I keep wondering why they leave them off! I know, a tablet is not a phone, but why not bring back the wave. And why not bring back the mullet haircut? Some things are just worth keeping around.

The wave gesture, really? I NEVER use that gesture on my Pre+ or Veer. I found it kind of useless, since it showed only what you have on the home buttons anyways.

I would like the back gesture.. I am constantly looking for a back button.

dito, I miss the back-gesture more than I do the wave-launcher (which was a cool show-off but nothing that I actually used).

I guess they could implement the back-gesture when you swipe from right to left (and forward would be vice-versa). The question is, how compatible that implementation would be to existing Applications.

Actually, I really miss the full swipe that would rotate an entire card at a time over the top of another, but they took that out before launching the PrePlus.

I guess I just want HP to go back to the ORIGINAL launch Pre and look at some of the gestures that were there and then bring forward any that would be useful on a tablet. I don't want them to bring the bugs with them though and I realize a tablet is not a phone so many of these things don't translate.

That reminds me: I have been wanting to ask this for some time... Why does a tablet have to be a rectangle? Also, why does the back have to be flat? HP is getting heat for making the back of their tablet stick out in the middle (much like the original iPad), but why didnt they let the back stick out and then go back in, and finally back out at the edges again so I could hold on to it like a steering wheel? What do you think? Too out there?

It has to be rectangle for the capacitive screen, of course.

Interesting idea for the non-flat (steeling wheel analogy) back. However, I think for a reasonable effect it would have to be a large bump which would make it extremely flat and wasted space within the tablet.

I was a little disappointed with the thickness of the TouchPad compared to the iPad but it has been a non-issue for me once I have it in hand. I have a HP case that will probably never come off so an unbalanced backing is a non-issue.

I think tablets in general are kind of weird to hold with hand placements and typing, which could be a place for improvement.

*which would make it extremely fat

The full swipe across the gesture area to quickly change applications (a.k.a. the "advanced gesture") is very much alive and well on all webOS devices except the TouchPad. I used it regularly on my Pre Plus, and now I make use of it on my Pre 2.

It is? Do I need to turn on advanced gestures? Have I been missing this for no reason? Is it a patch through Homebrew or something?

By the way, I think I have to buy a TouchPad now just because of Jason Robitalle. Sorry if I spelled the last name wrong. That guy and WebOS Internals are so awesome! I love homebrew and knowing guys like that have all of our backs in the homebrew space makes the Touchpad seem really really nice to me.

Why HP doesn't hire those guys and pay them huge money is beyond me!

I hope Ruby stays and also I hope he has a big say in implementation of software.

July 17th for further reduction in touchpad pricing.

Update in next 10 days pushed to the end of the month for TP. I think it doesnt matter, just make the update worthwhile.

Like Ruby he uses Veer, I am hoping unlike Ruby he knows what processor is in it.

Hopefully he has answers about fingerprints on front and back of TP, cheap looking back, rear camera, better front camera, HD soon, some way to get video out. Hopefully those few milimeters he added should mean H/P should give a good bundle on 32 gig TP and touchstone together.

Here are your answers:

All tablets get fingerprints on the front. Get over fingerprints on the back, it's not a big deal.

Don't take video or pictures with a tablet, you look stupid.

If you want video out, use a flash drive or your phone. Don't carry around a huge device just to plug into peoples' electronics.

You people are so nit-picky...

Not really nit picky. They'll simply get a better device that has these standard features. You know which one..

Have you seen iOS 5? Wireless hdmi. Cloud service that automatically syncs pics & apps. An app for what you need just about.

Even if you have no use for these, the reviewers hammer you for it. HP can't afford not to be nit picky when its ecosystem is so..lacking.

At least they removed Ruby and put in someone with some business sense. The keystone cop approach needs an overhaul.

why cant they put an oleophobic coating on the gorilla glass like Apple does.

It's not about taking pictures or video with the tablet. Have you heard if Layar? Or Google Sky Maps? Fun stuff for kids too.

So July 1st was just a "Soft Launch"? yeah ok.

Let the spin begin.

Be sure to tell me how you know?

Specialized HP demo tables with Veer and TouchPad that they had to pay Best Buy a pretty penny to prominently display scream "Soft launch" to you?

Clearing all of the reviews from ever major tech publication seems like a "soft launch"?

Come on....that's spin.

This is a classic marketing technique. Release an unfinished product, wait for all the reviewers to pan it, then fix it a few weeks later, and profit!!!

I like how he give dates, Ruby would have never said July 17th, till midnight of July 17th.

They picked the right guy for the job. The guy has an amazing track record. This should work out okay for webOS.

As I said in an earlier comment, what doomed Palm was poor execution. Hiring this man is what was needed to stop the bleeding.

HP is taking care of things now. Hopefully we will soon live in a world where taste in UI and user experience matter. With Android, it seems so much like computing is going ten years backwards...

I'm rooting for webOS and even WP7. I hope that one year from now more people will associate smartphones with HP, and even Nokia if they can manage their WP7 comeback.

Not that I mind Apple. But I just find iOS rather bland. (Although I must admit iOS 5 has interesting features, notably the calendar.)

I don't think Ruby is being put out to pasture. Ruby was never meant to lead a company. He was meant to innovate and be able to move between projects as his interests see fit. If anything, he may like this arrangement better as he gets to do what he is good at and the new guy gets to deal with the beurocratic BS.

I like how he gave the proverbial middle finger to Engadget, the other reviews, and Android all in one conversation.

I like this guy.

I like this guy. I was kind of on the fence about weather or not I should get a Touchpad now, or wait and see what else HP comes out with. He said they have a lot of new products in the pipeline. If this is true, and ESPECIALLY if the rumors that the Envy team is producing the hardware are true, then I will absolutely get one later on. Design is a big deal to me (as a print designer), and it really is to everyone, minus most programmers who don't seem to care ;)

He definitely has a better sales pitch for the TP. However, I went down to Best Buy to check out the hardware and it's the same device that was launched 12 days ago. How does that term go - lipstick on a pig?

The problem with the TP isn't HP's attitude nor is it the marketing nor the launch that turned into webOS soft launch #3 (Pre 2, Veer, now TP). It's the hardware and the software.

Specific release dates?! I didn't think those existed anymore... I will be glad to go buy a TP tomorrow if they fix office document editing, PDF viewing/commenting, and add support for more movie codecs.

I wonder if the focus on July 17th means they are going to announce the next thing - a release date for the Pre3.

Or I guess it might just be the announcement of the release date of the 4G Touchpad and the 64 Gb Touchpad.

Every time HP give us a big date, it's for an announcement, not an action. You have to wait until the 17th, to find how how much longer (or more) you'll have to wait for the action.

Remember Feb 9th?

So if we've learned anything about HP, we should be download calendars, not stopwatches, to measure how long the anticipation lasts.

Ok, just read the article and I admit, I got the warm fuzzies inside.....Remember on the movie Airplane when Leslie Nielsen's character gives Ted Stryker the pep talk before Stryker has to land the plane?? - That's the feeling.......But for the love of God, couldn't anyone have asked Mr. Dewitt about.......wait for it....wait for it.....the troubled relationship with our beloved Sprint...and what plans he has if any to repair it?

Oh where to begin...

I've been involved with a few troubled projects in the past where someone new is brought in, and everyone gets excited and hopeful, and in the end, the new guy turns out to be not much better than the old guy. Often times, it's because the new guy isn't familiar with the product domain and therefore leans on the old guy to come up to speed and as a result, all of the old guy's views, ways of thinking, and biases are transferred. And because he ends up viewing the world the same way, the new guy ends up making the same mistakes as the old guy.

Please don't let this happen!

HP needs a completely new product direction with webOS. The Pre 2, Veer, Pre 3, and TouchPad all suck from a hardware design perspective. They look like they were designed by the same team, or at least with the same design ideas, as the original Pre hardware. That hardware's style and form factor proved to be a flop with Palm. So why is HP repeating the same design mistakes? I thought the main upside of HP acquiring Palm was that HP was going to design some kick-butt hardware. Who is responsible for the current uninspired design? Is it Ruby? Then fire him now before his influence corrupts anyone else.

And the fact that DeWitt likes the Veer is troubling. With an OS named webOS, you'd think that products using it would be, hmmm, I don't know... how about GOOD AT BROWSING THE WEB! How are you supposed to browse the web with the tiny screen of the Veer? A phone like the Veer doesn't need webOS. If anything, the Veer should be the product you pump out after you've already released your flagship and middle tier phones. It shouldn't be something that you put on display as your best work.

And DeWitt needs to channel a little Steve Jobs. Jobs would have never let a product as glitchy and unpolished as the TouchPad out the door to tarnish his company's brand and image. I've seen the reports of TouchPads on display at retailers that are dead or extremely laggy. Are you kidding me? A control freak like Jobs would never let this happen. Plus, Jobs would have fired everyone on the software team who tried to ship software that contains so many glitches and delays. He'd be right in their face and asking them directly, so is this your best work? Is this what you are asking me to sell? Why does it take 7 seconds for me to display a PDF from an email attachment that is already downloaded? Why is JavaScript performance on our product rated the worst in the market? Is this acceptable to you? If it is, you should be ashamed to call yourself an engineer and you certainly have no place in my company.

That's the kind of attitude DeWitt needs to have. Because that's what he's dealing with from his competition.

The design of the Pre/Pre Plus/Pre 2 isn't the issue, it's all about screen size in the mainstream cellular phone market. 3.6 inch for the Pre 3 is close enough to 3.7 inch for most people, but 3.2 inch is quite a bit smaller when you look at it, and even though the physical keyboard helps compensate, it's not enough for the general public. 3.6 inch plus slide-out keyboard IS going to do quite a bit better if the sales people don't just throw it in a case and never check it out.

It's a preference thing. Pre 2 is perfect for me. Wouldn't want a bigger phone.

People are getting tired of the brick form factor. The size of the devices is perfect. In fact, the Pre 3 is a little too large.

I bought my first Pre specifically for the physical slider keyboard. That's still a required feature for me.

The hardware specs are more than adequate for what most people do with the devices. One could argue the the Veer is over-powered.

The value, as we all know, has always been in webOS.

I say fix the bugs, and go sell it.

"People are getting tired of the brick form factor."



Isn't Jobs the same one who takes a conservative approach to the features/functions on their devices? Look at the iPhone UI - has not changed from day 1. Widgets? None. Multi-tasking? No, you get quick app switching and a handful of background API's. Anything close to Synergy? Nope. Multiple Exchange accounts. No, you're limited to one because of performance and battery.

Yes, Apple products have near flawless performance. Yes, their industrial design and aesthetics are spot on. But there is less capability in the devices. Apple has a bigger ecosystem and sells lots of stuff but that is their advantage. Those advantages will not last.

Think you have it backwards.

WebOS is FAR less capable at present, and it's advantages are not lasting as cards, Synergy, and even inductive charging are being co-opted by competitors.

Meanwhile, you think iOS devices are less capable?

iOS controls several home automation systems. WebOS does not.

iOS supports pretty much every streaming media company for both and audio and video (proprietary ones like Zune aside) there is. WebOS does not.

iOS lets you play the vast majority of high quality mobile games. WebOS does not.

And so on and so forth. That app ecosystem is the lasting advantage. THAT is the advantage that is difficult to duplicate. Grabbing cards and gestures is easy, which is why everyone is doing it.

Agree 100%

Ruby may be a good engineer, but he's a horrible designer. Ditch the plastic and bring on the Slabs! WebOS deserves MUCH better hardware.

Ruby is an innovative engineer who got shoehorned into an administrative position by a company that needed innovative engineering in order to come back from the dead. Palm thought that Ruby's genius would rub off on the employees as a CEO. It obviously didn't.

It's as if a football club is down on its luck so the general manager decides to sack the coach. The club has ONE really brilliant player, so the manager makes that player coach, hoping the other players will learn from him. But you can't learn genius, and the team just can't field its best player anymore because he's on the bench.

Rubinstein needs a position where he can juggle numbers relating to electricity and materials, not profits and taxes.

If those extra millimeters were for the touchstone, then just bundle the charger with the TP. Really.

"Addressing the lukewarm reception of the TouchPad, DeWitt revealed that July 1st was in fact a “soft launch,” and that July 17th would bring the real launch..."

C'mon! Why has every webos product launch (with maybe the exception of the original pre) been a soft launch???? It would appear to me that sneaking your product into the market is not working to well.

I don't like Apple at all, but they execute right. *Generally*, Apple announces a new product, has it available soon thereafter, and it works as advertised when released. HP is so focused on copying Apple specs, when they should be focused on copying their execution.

I laughed as i read that part. You idiots, July 17th is the real launch. Everyone knows this. Nevermind that HP never mentioned this before. You didn't need to know. This is the date everything will click. The OTA update will be out and fix EVERYTHING.

The device's thickness is by design and allows you that precious touchstone charging and TTS. Didn't you know? (oops..did we forget to mention that earlier?).

We expected these kinds of reviews all along. We knew it would happen. Wow..

It's all about setting expectations. HP's silence leading up to launch and initial reviews played a big part in it. Although the real culprit (but hardly the only ones) is the buggy software and less than stellar hardware, HP did nothing to try to mitigate this.

Getting Ruby out of the way is a start though this guy brings more mixed messages if you've paid attention. "we're not looking at business and consumer, anymore. It's you" is one. Umm..ok. In a few weeks, they'll have changed this yet again.

This also isn't the time to start churning out copies of the Touchpad with 3G, "better" processors, etc. Support the touchpad, get these out to devs, but get to work on a redesign.

Look at the spec sheet used by Amazon and several others. It has always said embargoed until July 17.

Someone should tell QVC, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy, then, because these major retailers already deployed their marketing collateral and demos for the Touchpad on July 1 or thereabouts.

The QVC on-air demo was a hilarious lagfest, BTW. Made the TouchPad look like a Coby Android tablet.

It's on Amazon, in stock and available for shipping overnight. "always"?

Looks like Dewitt will fit right in with Jon and Leo. More childish lies and DeWitt yelling "Do Over" hoping for a better result. I bet these guys su ck at kickball.

I'm seeing this as reloading with higher caliber ammo. The good news is that HP can afford to keep doing this.

LOL, we still think HP has a lot of money to spend on OS? I think they expected a lot more for their 1.2 billion dollars, how much more money can they throw at it?

They're gonna have to sell a lot of phones and tablets just to break even. Something a soft launch of Pre2, Veer and two launches of Touchpad probably wont even make a dent in. And if they really want to sell up a future date for a hard launch, it might be the first time a product was reduced in price, twice before official launch.

You know all of this "shakeup" really worries me about HP and about webOS's future. I am not an analyst and have no more insight into this than any other consumer other than being a past webOS and potential future webOS customer.

If you look at all the other platforms (Apple, RIM, Google) you do not see this kind of shakeup in management on an almost monthly basis. In fact I don't recall seeing these kinds of shakeups at all in those other companies. Why is HP so gung ho in trying to keep changing things at the top hoping that those changes will trickle down and result in more acceptance and more sales?

To me it seems like a reactionary and unsettled way to do business. Android and webOS came out at roughly the same time and webOS has had many, many more changes in leadership (and high level positions) than Android has -- I just don't see how this can be good. Granted HP did acquire Palm and you would expect some changes, but you would also expect to see those changes generally improve the leadership and the product. But rather it seems like the result is still the same: products that are not near "perfect" at launch and a continuation of the message that things will be fixed "in the coming months".

Honestly if HP thinks they are going to start churning out device after device they might want to rethink that strategy and get things working right on the devices they have out right now (including the Pre 3).

All we should be hearing about at this point is OTA updates, more HP apps, HP services, more 3rd party apps, etc. That 1.5ghz Touchpad? It only told me they think the wifi touchpad isn't fast enough or inadequate. Just the wrong move.

Before you get too worried about the try-and-try again approach, consider Microsoft and their history of "3rd try is a charm". I'm not a Microsoft fan, but you have to admire the way they develop product through sheer persistence.

The benefit of HP ownership is that they can afford to keep working on this. I think the only critical mistake HP could make would be to give up too quickly.

I feel a lot more reassured about the future of webOS after reading that interview. I think they found the right man to lead.

I'm going to judge him by how quickly he has dinner/trip/Vegas Weekend/arranged-marriage-of-children with Dan Hesse, or whoever at Sprint decides on phones.

He is a salesman, and in the US, that means selling to the carriers.

Jon, for good or ill, was an engineer, whose vision was probably needed to get WebOS complete. The focus now should be on less engineering, and more sales (one half of the chicken/egg ecosystem/users problem).

He's saying the right things.

He needs to work on Wal*Mart too. I went in there this past weekend to check it out and saw a huge display for the iPad2 and all it's accessories - down the entire front counter of the electronics department. The other side of the counter had 3 other tablets out in the open for display/use - the iPad2 was behind glass but turned on and could be taken out for demo.

I asked if they had the Touchpad. They said, "Do you mean the iPad?" I said no, the Touchpad. Somewhat consternated the response became, "Well, maybe. We have a lot of tablets in under the counter that aren't on display. You'd be surprised." Under the counter he goes to unlock the drawer. Pulls a bunch of iPad boxes out and reaches behind the rest to pull out a TouchPad box.

He then shows me the box and says, "Here's kinda what it looks like, but we can't open the box for you to see it, because then we wouldn't be able to sell it."

Approaching webos as a salesman? If he works on commission, he may starve!

I see, Ruby wasn't replaced because he ran the ship aground. It was just that they needed someone to sell the cargo from the shipwreck...

There's no substitute for unified vision and a strong head start, neither of which HP/Palm has. What HP can bring, however, is persistence and deep pockets. They're making a pretty big push with this ecosystem and I believe they're going to make it work, and work well. I'm sure I'll be on board with new hardware before too long, just not the first wave of stuff while they get themselves in order, and no matter how much I otherwise may want a tablet and a new phone. I've waited this long (not saying entirely without complaint), I can wait a bit longer.

Good thing I'm so busy that time is passing quickly right now :-)