Maybe it's time to stop hating on HP? | webOS Nation

Maybe it's time to stop hating on HP?

by Derek Kessler Tue, 18 Sep 2012 9:06 pm EDT

Maybe it's time to stop hating on HP?

Hate is an incredibly intense emotion. Hate implies that you want to see the object of that emotion ended at all costs, be it the weather, your nemesis, or that untrained dog next door that barks through the night at nothing and everything. Hate is consuming, hate is destroying, hate is by and large wholly counterproductive. Hate is simply not good.

It has been thirteen months since HP cancelled webOS hardware development in what we can best describe as a fit of shortsightedness. It was a fit that was utterly destructive to the future of webOS and the community as a whole, and those who work on and with the operating system for a living and those of us who for various reasons care about webOS have spent the last year slowly recovering from that most improvident decision. Heck, HP's been struggling to recover from the decision, having been forced to write down billions of dollars in losses and losing a massive amount of shareholder value in the process.

Yet still, well over a year after the ax fell and the planned future of webOS was shunted to the side, I still find on a regular basis hate towards HP. The words still ring out in the comments and the forums, "I hate HP!" and "Damn you HP!" and so forth. HP as a company has changed in many ways since August 2011, not the least of which includes a new CEO in Meg Whitman to replace the failed and disastrous tenure of her predecessor, Leo Apotheker.

HP is a company. But as a company, HP is comprised of people. Without those hundreds of thousands of employees, HP is nothing. I feel no ill will towards those employees. I don't hate them. Yet, I feel that there are some in this community that if they were to run into somebody wearing an HP shirt on the street they'd feel overwhelmingly compelled to tell said employee how much they hate HP for what was done to webOS. Was what happened with webOS a year ago one of the most colossally rash, irresponsible, and gallingly asinine business decisions we've seen in the past several years in tech? Without a doubt. But is it worthy of hate a year later? I don't think so. I didn't think so then.

The problem is that former CEO Leo Apotheker, the and current Chairman Ray Lane, and the HP Board of Directors thought they were making a rational decision. Faced with a future where HP's computing and printing divisions are on the decline and attempting to provide and answer to Apple's iPad and Google's Android was going to cost billions of dollars and years of investment, they pulled the plug on webOS and decided to jettison the PC and printers businesses before it was too late. IBM's had enormous success as an enterprise services company, and HP's done relatively well in that arena too (except for some poor acquisitions in the process). Enterprise services was the future of the new HP. The HP leadership made a decision not out of malice, but out of dollars.

Of course, the market, businesses, and consumers voted with their wallets thereafter and Apotheker was soon no longer a part of HP. With former eBay CEO and HP board member Meg Whitman (who joined the board after the appointment of Apotheker) as Apotheker's replacement, things began to turn around. HP retracted plans to split the company apart and eventually committed to releasing webOS to open source. HP's trying to make good on webOS. They could have just taken the $3.3 billion write down and called it a day. But they didn't, they saw that there's still potential in webOS, but HP's just not in a position of financial strength or consumer sentiment to do much more than quietly open source it right now.

That one decision made thirteen months ago forever and unalterably changed the path of webOS. There's the new path of Open webOS, and while we may not agree with every decision that's been made along that path, they've still been made for generally pragmatic reasons.

I don't hate HP. But I'm certainly not an apologist for HP. As I said last week, I'm not a cheerleader for HP or webOS and won't shy away from telling them when I think they're wrong. But hating them for making a business decision is too intense for me. I'm may come across as cool and disconnected sometimes, but I'm no Vulcan. I, like many of you, was seriously perturbed by the news of thirteen months ago. I spent nearly an hour that evening looking for something in my house I could break without regretting it later (I ended up settling on a metal-handled broom, which I thoroughly destroyed - it was most satisfying).

I'll still give HP a hard time over the cancellation of webOS hardware, when appropriate. And I'll still  continue to give HP my unsolicited advice, even if it's not what they want to hear. And despite all of the time and effort and thought that I put into this site and the webOS community at large, I'll still continue to practice what I preach: it's just an operating system, just a tablet, and just a phone.

Hate is bad. Hate has never accomplished anything remotely good. If you're going to hate something, hate something that's worth hating, like the fact that people die from senseless acts of violence perpetrated by individuals and governments around the world on a daily basis. Hate that we still try to divide our society by race and religion and wealth and just where you happen to have been born. Hate in the most ironic sense that there is hate in the world.

But don't hate HP. They make computers, for crying out loud! If you're unhappy with HP's management decisions, vote with your wallet and buy your technology elsewhere. I for one don't have any plans to buy any more HP products, and I'll admit that my experience with HP's management decisions has partly driven those plans. I'm not saying you should take HP up to the honeymoon suite and make sweet sweet love, but the unproductive hate has to stop. It, like so many other things that have happened in the land of webOS, just doesn't make sense.