webOS GBU moving across the street next week, here's a first look at the new digs
With all of the layoffs and departures that have hit the webOS Global Business Unit, the headcount in Sunnyvale isn't nearly enough to justify the three whole buildings that had previously been home to Palm, Inc. There are the two big photogenic buildings on Maude Ave in Sunnyvale, California that we've come to know over the years. They're pretty traditional office buildings, with decent-sized lobby spaces, a number of small and large meeting rooms, open atrium areas with trees, and other assorted Silicon Valley niceties. But those buildings were formerly home to around a thousand employees at Palm, and now the webOS personnel number closer to two hundred. Something had to give.
When HP purchased Palm, the buildings on Maude Ave came with the deal. In its day, Palm was a successful and profitable company, so instead of renting some nondescript office buildings, they built their own. And now HP owns them and they fall under the Printing and Personal Systems Group, headed by former Palm CEO Todd Bradley. Way back in February it was revealed that HP would be moving the webOS GBU out of Sunnyvale and into the former office space of HP acquisition ArcSight in Cupertino. PPS would move into the former Palm offices. The move was expected to happen around this time, but it never came to pass, and Todd Bradley still hasn't gotten his old office back.
Instead, the single-story building across the street, a nondescript concrete and steel building known affectionately as SV3, was renovated to house the webOS GBU, or Gram, or we're not really sure… but next week everybody's moving across Maude Ave. SV3 has undergone months of renovation to prepare it for its new tenants. As for what happened with the move out to Cupertino, word has it (and this is just rumor), Apple was none too pleased when they heard that the webOS GBU was going to be moving to just over two miles from their main campus at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino. The webOS GBU's current digs are just over seven miles from Apple HQ. Apparently Apple was so concerned by the possibility of having webOS in their back yard, they opted to pay HP a healthy sum to stay away, and some of that money went into the renovation of SV3. We haven't been able to confirm that, and we doubt we ever will, so take that with a grain of salt (it could be that Apple just complained and HP graciously acquiesced).
Today the staff of the webOS GBU got a tour of the new space they'll be calling home, and they're certainly leaving behind the comfy and traditional confines of the two buildings across Maude Ave. The newly renovated SV3 is an odd mix of open work spaces, cubicles, and industrialist design. There are bare concrete floors and awkwardly-shaped lounge chairs. There are open clusters of work tables, eschewing the traditional desks for decent sized open tables and rolling file cabinets. And while there might be cubicle walls dividing the spaces, they're either covered with a whiteboard or contain a decent-sized window pane into the neighboring space.
Overall it seems a lot more open than some of the cubicle-farm type spaces that can be found in the current Palm buildings. And, of course, there are power ports everywhere. The renovation of SV3 is definitely in keeping with the current progressive office design practices, allowing for more collaboration and free communication between coworkers, as well as greater versatility in how the space is utilized. It's not quite Valve's awesome "your desk has wheels so you can move it" style [pdf], but it certainly is more flexible than the current layout. We haven't been there personally, but it seems a lot more open than what we've seen of the old Palm buildings, though in some ways it also seems colder (bare concrete) and maybe even intentionally incomplete (exposed framing). There's also a whole lot less window space than across the street - SV3 has been described as bunker-like, fitting given the 'stealth mode' approach being taken by Gram.
How well will the new SV3 space serve the employees that are soon moving in? We really can't say, but maybe some fresh digs are exactly what the team needs. The Palm campus hasn't changed much since HP's purchase nearly two and a half years ago. Those buildings carry a lot of memories, and thus a lot of weight. There's a lot of good and a lot of bad that went down at 950 Maude Ave, and maybe it's time for the webOS GBU to literally move on from it.
There's one burning question that we haven't been able to get quite answered yet: is this space dedicated to the webOS GBU, or is it Gram? From what we've heard on the ground, no identifying signage was visible anywhere inside or out, so maybe HP's opted not to invest in HP signs on the building when they'll be replaced by Gram in a relatively short time.
Thanks to anonymous for the pics!