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HP's three-year plan for Palm cut short by Leo Apotheker, says former CTO

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Former HP CTO Phil McKinney has revealed that HP originally had a three-year plan for Palm that was abruptly cut off when Leo Apotheker became CEO.

apotheker air quotes
apotheker air quotes

Former HP CTO Phil McKinney retired last October, and since then he's written a book, Beyond the Obvious, that reflects on his experiences of innovating in the industry. In an interview with Rick Mathieson to promote the book, McKinney gave a little bit of insight into what went down around the decision to kill webOS for consumer devices just sixteen months after acquiring Palm. We heard before that it was a simple matter of the platform not performing well enough, but McKinney says that there was a three-year program in place for webOS that was cut short by Leo Apotheker, and the company was supposed to have operated hands-off during that time.

"Palm had been struggling and HP was stepping in, doing the acquisition, and we were basically going to take three years hands-off. Palm was basically going to get a cash infusion, resources, and expertise. But Palm was going to be given three years to basically get itself positioned to be a market leader in its space. Now, fast forward to July of 2011 and, one, you had a swap out of the CEOs — Leo comes in as the new CEO — and HP, for whatever reason — I was not a part of this decision — made the decision to kill it one year into the three year program. This is an example of not committing long term to the resources and not having patience for innovation, and I'm disappointed that HP made that decision."

Apotheker was installed as CEO in November 2010, seven months after the Palm acquistion, and apparently ran out of patience with HP's slow progress in mobile. webOS may not have been a great performer for HP, but with the fate of Palm being decided by such drastic action it's no wonder Meg Whitman had seemingly no idea what to do with the division for so long.