Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Goodbye Hewlett-Packard

Posted: September 30, 2011 in Business, Technology

Anyone familiar with the ins and outs of technology undoubtedly has caught a glimpse of the tragedy of HP and continued debacles of the board of directors.

The most recent was Leo Apothecker, whose poor communication regarding the personal computer division had cause the company to loose over $12 billion on stock value.  He also killed the Palm division and the WebOS tablet, which was a great product.  His decisions make sense from purely a financial perspective, but not from a leader that should be more well rounded that can understand technology and the market.

HP’s board of executives brought in the infamous Meg Whitman, said to be an apostle of “darkness and ignorance” and “intellectually embarrassing” and “so banal” by Jerry Brown during her campaign for governor.  Her ethics seem rather spotty and she comes off brash and abrasive in the public’s view according to InfoWorld.   Her experience with acquisitions was purchasing Skype and then selling it off at a loss of $2.75 billion.  At FTD (Florists Transworld Delivery) famous for 1-800-FLOWERS, she was brought on board to fix it, but walked away saying hat the “company was not fixable“.  There’s an intriguing story about Meg’s tenure at FTD: Meg Whitman’s FTD Tenure Tells A Different Story by Juliet Willams.

There are some, like Professor David Hsu at Wharton, according to a Knowledge Today article, that think Whitman is a good fit to “out-IBM IBM or out-Oracle Oracle in the business services or enterprise software spaces” even though HP does not have a homegrown database solution they are positioning.

With these events and combined prior destruction of HP, I don’t expect them to be around for too long, for the writing is on the wall.  Thus, I have to say Goodbye HP.  And goodbye to prior companies it has absorbed: Palm, Compaq, Tandem, and Digital Equipment Corporations.  Those companies brought significant solutions and products to the market that forever changed the industry, but never adapted their offerings with the times under HP’s umbrella.

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BeOS and Palm Tragedy

Posted: August 26, 2011 in Business, Technology

Apple decided not to go with BeOS, and went with NeXTSTEP.  But whatever happened to BeOS afterwards?  Well, as I recall, Be was sold to Palm Source, the software company that made the PalmOS.

BeOS 5 Demo

Before, in the marketplace for smart devices (called PDA – Personal Digital Assistant), PalmOS did not seem competitive to Microsoft’s Windows CE or Windows PocketPC.  For around $400, you could buy a Palm device that had black and white graphics, and a very minimal simplistic features.  Palm’s management felt that users wanted simplicity, and they stuck to their gun as their market share was dwindling.Palm Pilot Image

The Palm offerings were not attractive to many devices running WinCE (Windows Compact Edition) in the marketplace, especially to the Compaq iPAQ that was selling for around $400 as well.  These devices had color graphics, audio playback, audio recording, expansion options, more memory, and more robust applications including many graphically rich video games. The WinCE supported multiple languages, and could synchronize with Outlook and Exchange email server.  Each version of the device had more features, and the Palm’s offerings seem stagnated.

iPaq 3700 Image

Palm acquired the rights Be OS in 2001. The software division of Palm, called Palm Source, spun off in 2003 and was itself was acquired by a Japanese company named Access in 2005. Palm One or Palm, Inc. (hardware company), started using Windows Mobile OS (aka WinCE or Windows PocketPC) in favor of Palm OS in 2006.

In years following, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android system would become the dominant smart device systems, and Palm OS along with Be OS disappeared into obscurity.  Today, Access still sells a version of the Palm OS called Garnet OS that is said to integrate some components of Be OS, but it seems Be OS as a system is no more.

Palm went on to develop WebOS to succeed Palm OS in 2009.  Web OS is promising technologically, but this did not help them in the marketplace as they already lost the race against Apple iPhone/iPad onslaught.

HP (Hewlett Packard) acquired Palm in 2010 as they hoped to enter the mobile device market with a new tablet form-factor running Web OS.  One year later in 2011, the current infamous CEO of HP killed off the division.  The reasoning apparently is that there is lack of interest in the marketplace for the TouchPad, but I suspect in reality this decision has more to do with poor execution of bad strategy, lack of insight, and mismanagement.

Web OS Image

I feel saddened that great innovations are destroyed.  I wish somehow they could have survived, maybe as open source.

I wanted to look at Apple’s transition path from an old platform (Mac OS classic) to a new platform (NeXTSTEP, now called Mac OS X) and Nokia’s transition path from Symbian to Windows Mobile 7.

Apple’s Story

Back in the late 1990s, Apple had no viable platform for Macintosh computers as the aging classic Mac OS system couldn’t be altered to add features Apple needed to stay competitive.

They needed an alternative, so they bought NeXTSTEP and brought back Steve Jobs.  NeXTSTEP was made to look like current system and was remade into Mac OS X.  Many do not even know this and think the system was always like this.

NeXTSTEP System

Apple faced a serious problem:  migrating software market in the millions (classic Mac OS) to a platform whose market was in the thousands (NeXTSTEP).

What Apple did was create a library (called Carbon) that would allow legacy programs that use this library to run in the new system as well as the existing obsolete Mac OS system.  Other unsupported classic programs ran in an virtual system that offered backwards compatibility under the new system.

This allowed popular software Adobe Photoshop to take advantage of the new system, while being able to operate in the older system.  This way, companies like Adobe could support both platforms with minimal R&D costs.

Other companies that made software for NeXTSTEP, like OmniGroup, could naturally easily port their software to the new system called Mac OS X.  The native library from NeXTSTEP was called Cocoa.

Nokia’s Story

Nokia’s ecosystem was essentially mobile phones running the Symbian system.  Eventually other ecosystems (smart pagers with RIM, personal digital assistants with Palm and Microsoft, and iPods with Apple) evolved into what is now called Smartphones.

Apple’s iPhone was phenomenal and changed the whole ecosystem, while Nokia stuck to their guns, mobile phones, and experimented with smartphones running Symbian.   The result is that Nokia is uncompetitive, Symbian platform is a market loser, and Nokia has lost significant market share in this new competitive ecosystem.

Nokia made the announcement that they would support the Windows Mobile 7 platform.  They never detailed about any transition plan, and in fact it seems that they are supporting both Symbian and later Windows Mobile 7 platform.   Thus, Nokia has no transition plan, and is diluting their brand, confusing developers and investors alike.

Nokia Windows Mobile 7 Phone

Results Speak for Themselves

Apple used to support everything under the sun, with their plethora of Performa models.  The genius of management was to make anything the customer wanted.  This nearly bankrupted Apple back in the day.  Nokia seems poised to follow the same footsteps as that failing strategy, give the market whatever it wants.

Today, while Nokia’s market share falls 4% to 29%, Apple unveils that it has a 95% rise in first-quarter profits.  Strategy Analytics, said that Apple has overtaken Nokia as world’s largest handset seller in revenue terms ($11.9 billion for Apple in Q1 2011, and $9.4 billion for Nokia).

We are in round two of MOBILE-WARS starring the smart phones.  I think the most significant players are Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and a potential comeback with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile .

Mixed Messages

As everyone knows by now, Nokia announced that they will use Windows Mobile, but then they announced they are supporting the Symbian platform as well with newer releases stacked with features.  They also support other platforms including Java (J2ME) and another platform called Qt, and also MeeGo.

At first I was intrigued about the Nokia + Windows Mobile match, as this could help both companies.  Now though, I am not so intrigued because Nokia seems to be giving mixed messages (supporting both Windows Mobile and Symbian), and they don’t have a transition path from Symbian to Windows Mobile, or any clear path as to where they are going.

Obvious to most, the mixed messages in this market will not help Nokia especially as their market share is rapidly declining, which is a shame, because the quality and design in their hardware products are really amazing.

The Solution

I think the solution should be to drop Symbian completely for smartphones, send it off to open source pastures, develop a way to reuse Symbian applications on Windows mobile (maybe use Qt), and totally embrace the new system as the de facto standard.

Maybe Nokia could team up with Amazon to work on a new application store that gives them a value added distinction compared to other Windows Mobile 7 offerings.

Some great historical articles: