Look up the word “cluster” in the dictionary, and you’ll see HP’s logo….

HP’s Smartphone Announcement ‘Soul Crushing,’ Says Matthew McNulty:

But Matthew McNulty, the former senior director of the HP Enyo team, Enyo being the successor to webOS, said he would be surprised if HP used webOS for its new smartphone since many engineers have left the company, including McNulty who departed HP for Google in May.

However, if he still worked at HP, McNulty said the announcement from Whitman would have been devastating.

Matt’s right, and I think he speaks fairly for most webOS/Palm people, current and former.

But I think we need to be careful about trashing Meg here. 

We have to remember that Palm (the company) was a bit of a cluster — and the first phone shipped when it had to, not when it was ready to ship. And Palm was running out of money. And then HP stepped in and turned Palm into a much better funded cluster, and HP really did try to help Palm be successful. Except HP then got sidetracked into its own series of clusters, whether it was Mark Hurd (who along with Shane Robison were the primary supporters behind buying and funding Palm) being forced out over his choice of dinner companions, or HP hiring Leo (WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? OMG, WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?) and Leo trying to blow up any part of HP he didn’t understand, which was big parts of the company. 

So when Meg was brought in, her primary function was as a field surgeon, trying to keep the patient alive long enough to get to the hospital. Massive damage was done to HP and to webOS, and most of the webOS damage was almost of the “innocent bystander at a drive by shooting” type as a side effect of Leo’s attack on the PC division. 

Meg could have just written webOS off and shut it all down as a damaged investment not worth fixing. Given how many much bigger and strategic problems she had at HP when they brought her in, nobody would have blinked at that. But she brought in Marc Andreesen to help her figure out what to do, and they committed even more funding to give it a third life as an open source technology. Whatever you think about Leo, HP and how badly they screwed up things with webOS and Palm, it needs to be remembered that at least a couple of toes were shot off by Palm itself with it’s own gun before Leo pulled out the Uzi.

And in all honesty, Meg has done a rather amazing job of giving WebOS another chance, and has been honest about it. She could have used the “there are just too many bigger problems I need to deal with” excuse and shut it down cold. She could have put it on life support, or funded it just enough to let it fail and then said “I tried”. She could have just stuck it in a closet and quietly killed it a few months later when things quieted down. But she put an honest effort and honest levels of funding into giving it a shot, and she deserves full credit for that. 

And to the credit of the folks sticking it out with webOS (unlike myself, who ran like a rat off the ship when I had a chance to without any regrets…) they seem to be doing what they need to do, and I’ve been really impressed with the results so far. So maybe, just maybe, what Meg set in place will succeed. I’m sure rooting for it. And she deserves credit for that. Given how badly Leo screwed everything up, I’m frankly amazed how much progress she’s made at HP so far. Still a long, hard path for the company as a whole before it’s fixed, if it ever is, but IMHO, it’s in good hands. 

Posted in Computers and Technology, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area

Now Imagine If Amazon Had Bought Palm And WebOS

Now Imagine If Amazon Had Bought Palm And WebOS – SplatF:

So here’s an interesting exercise: Imagine if Amazon had acquired Palm and WebOS instead of HP. While WebOS and HP’s TouchPad tablet were ultimately failures — and the deal timing doesn’t really work — it may have resulted in a more interesting partnership and more successful products.

What WebOS did well is exactly what Amazon’s Kindle Fire needs: A beautiful, clever interface, second only to Apple’s. (And even better than iOS in some ways.) Combined with Amazon’s expertise in e-commerce, digital media, and its aggressive pricing, a Kindle TouchPad might be an even more compelling device than what Amazon has built on its own.

There are some major problems with this idea, of course. Amazon’s app ecosystem mostly exists because companies are already developing for Android. Building the Kindle Fire around WebOS would have meant far fewer apps, at least in the short-term. Or perhaps the WebOS team could have remade its user interface for an Android-based tablet, but who knows how long that would have taken or if it would have been any good. (Not to mention any economic or logistical problems with this combination.)

But, still, an interesting idea! Jeff Bezos clearly cares about becoming a great tablet maker, and Palm’s team — led by ex-Apple executive (and now Amazon board member!) Jon Rubinstein — might have helped. It’s hard to imagine Amazon blowing the Palm acquisition worse than HP did. It might have even been a great combination.

The app ecosystem isn’t that big a deal. you could take it a couple of ways. If Amazon has bought Palm, they would have had Palm’s partnering and business development team, which was pretty darn awesome. You want to convince people to write apps for a platform? First, you need a team who knows how to make those connections and sell the opportunity. And then you need an opportunity they can sell. “Hey, this device will be plastered on the front page of Amazon.com for the next two years at this price point, and we’re going to push it hard into the hands of everyone we can get it in front of. And if you commit to shipping this, we’ll make sure your app gets a month of favored placement in the catalog during the holiday season and you can demo it at the launch announcement”.  If you need to, for key apps you can sweeten the deal with anything from outright subsidies (“we’ll hire two developers for three months”), marketing and publicity, any number of things. 

Amazon’s story was easier being on Android to some degree, but this is a very manageable situation if you have the right people and management commitment. 

Or Amazon could have built an Android compatibility layer into a WebOS-based device. Quite technically possible for the right teams.

Or what I’d most likely have done in their shoes: take the webOS user-visible interface components and port them to Android to replace the Android versions. Basically throw out the underlying technology and run the webSO front end on Android. The bad news (for Palm/webOS at least) would be that Amazon wouldn’t have needed a huge chunk of Palm to do that, it only would have needed to bring over a 100-150 people, more or less. Which is, from what I can see, about the size of the webOS GBU under HP today, so the end result would have been about the same, at least as far as leaving dead bodies on the side of the road during the death march… 

And if Amazon DID investigate buying Palm back at that time (and I honestly have no idea one way or another), that’d be the thing that killed that deal. Palm at that time was only interested in a buyer that would keep them together and let them continue to try to build the product. “Parting out” the company was only an option if they couldn’t find a buyer that’d continue the operation. HP would and did. A deal where someone bought Palm and then laid off 2/3 of the company wouldn’t have been on Ruby’s A or B lists (and there were — rumors say — a number of players looking to buy Palm for the patents and throw all of webOS and it’s people into the recycling bin…. Depending on what rumors you heard, ALL of the offers other than HP were that kind of deal. I know that’s what I was expecting…)

There are rumors (and again, I DO NOT KNOW. I wasn’t in the meetings, if there were any) that Amazon investigated buying  webOS after Leo blew it up and HP was looking at options (and exits). And that Amazon ended up walking away from it because the costs of operating the organization was way beyond what they considered affordable because of the costs associated to supporting the cloud aspects of webOS. So it’s possible Amazon kicked the tires on this twice, but if they did, the first time, it probably was a deal Palm wasn’t interested in, and the second time, the price tag made webOS too expensive for them to take on. 

So I think webOS on Android on Fire (so to speak) was definitely something that could have been considered and could have given Amazon some nice options to work with, but the cost of making ti happen would have been way beyond what it would have made sense to pay to get it. 

Posted in Computers and Technology

“Has anyone talked to you about your ACLs?”

So there I am, lying on my back on the table, and this very nice doctor has a death grip on my leg and is wobbling my knee. Then she says “Has anyone ever talked to you about your ACLs?”

And I laugh. Kind of a hollow laugh. Yes, that’s not a new discussion.

Suddenly, the knee catches, and then lets go again with a crack. Remember those boring days in class when you used to quietly crack your knuckles, and one of them would insist on going off with a sound that could be heard three classrooms away? Yeah, that sound. She jumped. I twitched a bit.

It’s been about five years since I stepped in that gopher hole and sprained my knee, except it wasn’t a sprain and it didn’t get better. It gave me a matched set: torn meniscus in both knees (the other dating back to high school days, back before arthroscopic surgery existed), and, as I found out that day, arthritis. And my stretchy, loose ACLs and MCLs. 

Since then I’ve been taking 1000mg of Relafin a day, and for the most part it’s done pretty well. With something like this, you have good days and bad days and sometimes you have to be rational and give it a rest. The thing I’d noticed is that — as expected at some point — there were more rest days and fewer go days, so it was time to see where things stood.

Arthritis is progressive, it doesn’t get better, the only question is how fast or slow it gets worse. At the far end of this tunnel are brand new titanium knees and a note from my doctor to the TSA. (“Dear sir. no explosives, just hunks of metal where his kneecaps used to be. Sincerely, his doctor”). 

So I scheduled myself to radiology for pictures, and now I’m on a table scaring the crap out of my doctor as my knees simulate a semi-automatic rifle. Fortunately, no shrapnel. So we talked over where I was feeling what, and she moved things around and clucked her tongue a bit and asked me about my ACLs, and then we looked at the pretty pictures.

It’s about what I expected. The right knee is close to bone on bone (hint: not fun). But overall, it’s progressing on the slow side. This is good, because we all want to delay knee replacement as long as possible, if only because artificial knees only last for a couple of decades, and the longer we stick with the original equipment, the less chance we’ll need to swap in a second set down the road. Although if I live to see my ultimate goal on how to die (“in bed at the hands of a jealous husband. at age 90) maybe I should be rooting for needing three sets of replacements… 

I suggest we boost the dosage of the Relafin. She suggests there are better ways to destroy your liver. She pops over to the desk and comes back with the needles. The look a foot long, but really, only about 3″. It’s time for my first cortisone shots! lucky me. She’s good. I almost don’t feel the left. The right is a tighter gap and she slides off the inside of the kneecap a bit — you feel it, but I can’t say it hurts. Just a funny feeling — and then that’s done. I was warned I’d probably want to haunt the couch with ice bags the first night (they were right), and then we’d see how well the knees reacted. 

Cortisone is a steroid. It’s a massive anti-inflammatory. It’ll knock down the irritation and swelling for weeks if things go well. I’m eligible for cortisone every three months as long as it does the job. When it no longer does, that’s when we have to start considering “other options” (so to speak). 

And so far? they feel better than they have for a year. I tried cutting the Relafin completely to see if we could do without it (and give my liver a rest), but decided that wasn’t quite right. I’m back on half the dose of Relafin I’d been taking, which means I have some leeway for ramping it up again if I need it. I’m moving better, more or less pain free, and subjectively, the joints seem a lot more stable, loose ACLs not withstanding. 

Cortisone isn’t risk free. Use it too often, it can cause degeneration in the joints — make things worse, not better. That’s something to remember when if you follow sports and you hear about all of these athletes taking cortisone shots to get ready for games. Something to remember next time you hear someone babbling about overpaid athletes; a number of them are making a conscious decision that’ll likely lead to orthopedic problems for the rest of their lives, just to be there for that game. Stop and think about the number of retired athletes in their 40’s and 50’s having knees replaced now. They’re making sacrifices most of us can’t conceive of, and will end up with physical challenges they’ll live with the rest of their lives long after the money stops coming in. 

But for me, a more conservative approach. And the early results mean I’m now a lot more mobile than I have been recently, and I’m trying to take advantage of that. I don’t want to be that guy driving through Yosemite with a scooter hooked to the back of the car. Of course, if that’s what it comes to, it’s better than some of the alternatives, no? 

What really matters is not letting stuff like this stop you… It may slow you down, but use that as an opportunity to enjoy the view, not an excuse to miss it completely… 



Posted in About Chuq