Open Letter to HP: Saving Palm

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Dear Ms. Whitman,

My name is Abner and I'm a teen living in sunny Los Angeles. I recently got the HP Veer, the HP Pre 3, and the HP Touchpad. In other words, I got the last webOS products created by HP. Your predecessor, Mr. Leo Apotheker, made the decision to end all development and production of all webOS hardware. You reversed the decision and decided to open source webOS. I applaud you for making that decision and thus keeping webOS alive, but let us face the truth: open sourcing something is effectively killing it. For example, Nokia did that with what if formerly called Meego and what is now called Tizen. That mobile operating system is more or less dead and will never make it to any consumer product that the average consumer will purchase purposefully or accidentally. I can tell you sternly and confidently that, that is and will be the fate of webOS.

Open sourcing something is effectively killing it.

I am going to be frank. I don't use any HP products whatsoever. I prefer using Macs. I use to have an HP printer, but it broke. I am a fanboy for innovation in technology. I love technology that changes the world. That revolutionizes everything. I have used the above mentioned webOS products for a month now and I have fallen in love with them. Dropping my Apple iPod touch to use webOS. I think that webOS is brilliant and is still the best mobile operating system in the industry. I am sadly not a programmer or designer, I am more of a visionary/lofty dreamer. When I grow up, I want to be a technology journalist. What I'm trying to say is, I have nothing to to offer, but an idea.

Bring back webOS, re-enter the hardware business of making smartphones and tablets, and in the process make HP a consumer force to be reckoned with.

HP cannot survive on its current trajectory of making desktops, laptops, and printers.

First, why should you do this. HP cannot survive on its current trajectory of making desktops, laptops, and printers. HP's stock price is on a downward trajectory as the consumer market moves towards tablet and smartphones as their daily drivers. Something, which HP is currently not in the business of doing. Your Imaging Division is currently the largest money maker if I remember correctly, but selling printers to consumers or the enterprise will not last forever. It will eventually die out and fizzle, leaving HP with nothing. HP must skate to where the puck is going. They must move to what consumers will be buying next. You must do this while you still have profitable division to fund and to kick back to.

To do this, HP must reenter the market and make great, brilliant consumer products like smartphones and tablets. To do so you must use your OWN operating system, which you bough, instead of using something like Android or Windows 8. There are numerous hardware manufacturers that can do so. But, there is only one company that has webOS and as a result can differentiate to consumers.

1. Reverse your decision to open source webOS and take development in house. Use open webOS to achieve that. It's almost done and expected to be released in September.

2. Developers. Developers. Developers. webOS needs great applications. That's what doomed webOS the first time. This is what you need to do. Look at the top 100 apps in Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, contact/pay these developers to port their apps to webOS. This gives consumers the incentive to buy webOS devices as they know the apps they love are there. This will also encourage other developers to develop for webOS once they realize that consumers are being webOS devices.

You MUST have the following popular apps: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Instapaper, Pocket, Flipboard, Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Netflix, Photo editing apps, Weather apps, Games: Temple Run, Angry Birds, Infinity Blade and other hard-core graphics intensive apps, Where's My Water, Zynga games, etc. ...

One is a KEY word

3. Make two webOS products: one great smartphone and one great tablet. One is a KEY word. Make sure the consumer knows which one to buy. Don't confuse. Clear and simple.

3a. One great smartphone. Possible specifications, in order to stay competitive:

  • The display is the most important aspect of a phone. The screen is how you use the phone, therefore it must be absolutely perfect. You cannot cheap out on it. 4 to 4.3-inches will satisfy those who say that the iPhone's 3.5-inch is too small and how some Android phones have too large screens at 4.8-inch. This smartphone must have a 720p display at 720 x 1280 in order to stay completive. webOS might have to be optimized to fit those requirements. Preferably, the actual panel would an In Plane Switching panel or IPS. IPS allows for greater viewing angles so that for any angle the words and pictures on the screen looks just as good.
  • I am sure dual-core processor would make webOS run smoothly, but to keep this device competitive consider a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and a great graphics chip that will allow for the creation of fantastic games, like Infinity Blade.
  • 16 and 32 GB of memory, as well as a microSD card. I'm not sure how webOS works with expandable memory, but microSD would be a competitive specification.
  • The best camera is the one you have with you. Smartphones today have cameras that rival the point and shoot. This webOS device should have that as well. Look at the iPhone 4S, HTC One X, and Samsung Galaxy SIII for guidance.
  • 4G LTE is a must as well.
  • DESIGN: Consider revving this prototype design of an unreleased and canceled webOS product: (link here.) It's unique, with it's glass back, and thinness.
  • Pricing: Aim for the holiday season and release at an extremely competitive price point of $99 (16 GB) and $199 (32 GB) with accessories like the Touchstone inductive dock.

3b. One great tablet. Possible specifications, in order to stay competitive:

  • Like the smartphone, the tablet must have a great panel. If possible a resolution that rivals the iPad 3. IPS display is a must, as it would make watching movies and sharing photos would look great. 10-inches would be the optimal screen size, as will be explained in the marketing section below.
  • Other specs should be similar as to those of the smartphone.
  • DESIGN: Have the design be bold and different from current tablets of the day. Maybe a glass back?
  • Pricing: Aim for the holiday season and release at an extremely competitive price point of $299 - $349 (WiFi only, 16 GB) $399 - $449 (WiFI only, 32 GB). Add $50 - $100 for a 4G LTE model. Also, have accessories like the Touchstone inductive dock.

4. webOS is already a great operating system, but further refinements at this key points would allow it to stay competitive with iOS 6 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean:

  • Amazing virtual keyboard, as this initial device will not have a physical keyboard.
  • Solid camera with built-in features such as Panorama mode.
  • Deep integration with Twitter, in addition to the current Facebook integration.
  • Great Maps app with built-in turn by turn directions
  • Great email experience.
  • Improved and expanded Touch-to-Share capabilities. Allow for transfer of photos, contacts, notes, etc, in addition to the current sharing of web pages. More in marketing section below.

5. Marketing approach: Aim for a holiday season release. Therefore that requires immense amount of work starting immediately. But, it is very KEY that though you are aiming for the holiday season that the software is completely finished. Do not make this a repeat of the original Palm Pre and TouchPad launch.

Try to give consumers a reason to buy both the smartphone and the tablet. Possible marketing line: "Better Together." Heck, even use the song of the same title by Jack Johnson in your marketing push. As I said it's important to have Touch-to-Share perfected. For instance, if you watch a movie on your tablet, you can tap it to your smartphone to sync the place where you left off. Show that in your TV ads. Show the ability to share photos with your friends by tapping your phone together. Have the ability to create a slideshow on your phone, then tap it to your tablet, so it can appear on a larger display. The possibilities are really endless. Tap apps to share a link to the marketplace. Share contacts, ie replace business cards.

The marketing approach must be huge. Feature it in TV shows, movies, TV ads, radio, billboards, YouTube advertisements. Use viral advertising if needed to get consumers to notice and possibly buy it as presents. As I said above, courting app developers is important. As consumers will buy, if they know their favorite apps are available. Features the fact that you have those apps on the ads.

6. Target audience: The target audience must primarily be the consumer, but have features that appeal to the enterprise. A great email experience would appeal to the corporate environment. The tap-to-share contacts could also be useful. Also, it is important to make webOS secure as possible to work in this high level audience. Later on after the initial release, you should release a keyboard Pre 3-esque device. But, again that should be later AFTER your initial lineup of devices.

7. Carrier: Both AT&T and Verizon in the American market. That is extremely important, if you don't want this phone to fail. This phone MUST be on both carriers touting LTE 4G and therefore giving consumers a choice. Sadly, you might have to make some several sad concessions to them.

8. A great leader: This project needs a great leader and I strongly believe that Jon Rubinstein is still the right person for the job. He was able to amass the greatest talents of Silicon Valley under one company and hopefully he will be able to do so once more.

Ms. Whitman, please, please seriously consider this email for the sake and future of Hewlett-Packard.