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HP Begins Laying Off WebOS Developers, Potentially Firing CEO 178

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the obama-weeps-gently dept.
MrCrassic writes "Looks like it might be the beginning of the end for webOS presence at HP, as The Register announced that they laid off 525 webOS developers." From the article: "HP is laying off up to 525 staff from its global webOS hardware biz, according to reports. The tech titan confirmed last month it is shuttering the unit that produced the ill-fated TouchPad and Pre3 devices. 'As communicated on 18 August, HP will discontinue the development of webOS devices within the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011, which ends 31 Oct 2011,' an HP spokesperson told AllThingsD in the US." So far it looks like just the hardware designers are being let go. The HP board happens to be meeting today, possibly to discuss firing the current CEO for failing to improve the company's financial prospects.
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HP Begins Laying Off WebOS Developers, Potentially Firing CEO

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  • Would it be possible to lay those off too and replace them with IT people?

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Depends how many well qualified IT people you can find who will work for not-much-more-than-minimum wage in a call centre. If you find them, I bet HP would hire them.

    • But they are! They had 2 hours of training and a crib sheet to ask from top to bottom, note down answers and if they can't answer your question (ok, ok, when they finally reach the end of the sheet and can't ask anything anymore) they promise you a return call.

      What else do you expect?

      • by Jeng (926980)

        I expected to have the full two weeks of training to goof off.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        No, you can answer HP support calls with zero training and no sheet. I know I used to do it. But that was back when HP outsourced calls to US-based call centers. I did eventually get training, but I did work with no training initially until the training schedule accommodated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArhcAngel (247594)
      WAIT! hp has employees other than management? I thought the entire company was nothing but contract personnel that they laid off one week a year to satisfy the laws about putting contractors in permanent positions. Perhaps they were required to retain the Palm staff as employees for x number of days...
  • by Ironchew (1069966) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:43AM (#37469064)

    ...that nothing they do makes any sense.

    • Since Leo Apotheker is there now, you can pretty-much bank on it.

    • by pnewhook (788591) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:15PM (#37469446)

      They haven't done anything that made sense since they acquired that pile of crap Compaq.

      I'm wondering if the CEO will actually be fired, or just given another ridiculous golden handshake like was given to Carly Fiorina

      • by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @02:17PM (#37470872)

        It seems to be a popular game. NetFlix and Mozilla are playing too.

      • Let's play a game (but not global thermonuclear war if Apotheker might get involved). Try to guess what HP's next mega-blunder will be:

        • Dispose of inkjet printer business (and maybe laser printer and scanner businesses, too)
        • Reverse abandonment of WebOS devices, but after firing all the folk with know-how and pissing-off subcontractors
        • Announce a new combined book and app-store for iOS/Android/Kindle/Nook/etc. which will be a global leader
        • Declare that Jack Welch's "Destroy your business" is HP's new corpora
        • Any other suggestions for batshit-crazy corporate directions to inspire Apotheker's next folly?

          He used to work at SAP, so perhaps HP could develop their own ERP system? For bonus points, write half of it in something close enough to javascript (but different enough to cause frequent confusion), and make it only run on non-existent OS - after all, they already have one of those. That's vertical integration, that is.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Selling the inkjet thing to Lenovo makes sense. You sell the profit centers to get cash to waste on the ones that are losing money. That's been done for years. Bonus if you sell them to your wife's cousin for 1/10th what they are worth, then buy them back 5 years later for 100x what you sold it for.
    • Things were actually coming together quite nicely under Hurd. I have to say though that the last 6-9 months have been a more fascinating trainwreck than anything Fiorina produced. Quite frankly, I have the strong suspicion that at this point, it's not only the CEO and the executive team that's at fault, but that the board of directors had just as much of a hand in screwing up HP as anybody else. The amount of nonsensical decisions that have come out of Cupertino is just too large to be the product of just o

      • Apple HQ = Cupertino
        HP HQ = Palo Alto

        • Eh, the Palo Alto "HQ" is a shell of a building. I was over there a couple of years ago, and in one long-abandoned cubicle area of the building, they hadn't even cleaned up the coffee cup on one guy's desk. Apparently, coffee left on its own for a few years transforms into a kind of glue. You could hold it upside down, and the spoon wouldn't drop out. It was like a freaky episode of the Twilight Zone.

          The buildings that were in heavy use were all in Cupertino.

      • by Jon_S (15368)

        Cupertino, Palo Alto, whatever. It's all the same if you've ever been there.

    • by mevets (322601)

      On the rumour that Apotheker has been shit-canned, the stock rose almost 7 % -- a market cap increase of about $3B. Imagine if they shot the board and top few levels of mgmt...

      It is a humiliating kick in the crotch to have being firing be the only worthwhile initiative you were involved in. To that end, the BoD was clearly incompetent and he should get a little walkin around money.

  • There must be some really good BeOS and Palm employees in there who made some really nice software but failed to make an impact, really sad that Leo who was at SAP for 18 years was put in charge of HP, which has a big hardware component. Leo wants to kill off the hardware and go corporate services.

    • Seems like every big HW mfg's wants to be an IBM Global Services. Does HP really want to give up that long-term cash flow to go chase its dreams? Maybe the shareholders can get rid of Leo before Leo gets rid of HP's future profitability.

      • Oh hell yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@PASCALgmail.com minus language> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:40PM (#37469744) Homepage

        Does HP really want to give up that long-term cash flow to go chase its dreams?

        In a word, yes. In three words, oh hell yes.

        PC hardware is a commodity market and it's a mess. The upside that anyone can build a PC these days is a double edged sword, because just about anyone can build a PC these days, and the ones that do it the cheapest are the ones who win out. Margins are razor thin. High end desktops are a rare purchase. Mid-range desktops are only sold mostly to businesses when they don't need a laptop. Laptops are losing out to iPads and Macbooks now, which are solid alternatives at comparable prices, AND have better quality on average. HP is not making gobs and gobs of profit on hardware, only Apple, Samsung and HTC seem to be able to do that at the moment. Sure they might bring in $100 million in revenue but it cost like $99 million to make that. The numbers are exaggerated of course but the point is that HP sees that their hardware business is not making as much profit as you think, and it's the profit that's important.

        Look, IBM created the PC and it was their cash cow for years. They then established a business consulting branch to encourage people to buy their machines. Then Compaq came along and ate their lunch, and suddenly their cash cow went away. One day, someone realized "holy shit! Our consultants make more money than our hardware does. All we do is contract out the manufacturing work to some other bozo anyway, let's sell hardware and make consulting our new cash cow, and simply tell them to buy whatever hardware we feel like."

        What's funny is when IBM did this, similar things happened economically then that are happening now. 2001, the dotcom bubble bursts, 3 years later IBM sells it's hardware to work business to business. 2008, housing market crashes and 3 years later, HP gets out of hardware. In both situations, the average household consumer is hit hard and hurting, median middle class wages are practically stagnant and not keeping up with inflation, but corporate profits continue to rise in both instances.

        Follow the money, the money is in businesses paying businesses for business consulting to run their business more. Huge international companies selling to average consumers is folly compared to selling to business these days especially when all the money is in corporations and rich people's pockets (that's not some political slogan, that's just the truth). Sure HP could keep it's hardware, it's probably still profitable over all, but why work so hard at making a little money when you could work half as hard and still make a killing in business consulting?

        • IBM make very large, very fast, mainframes. They never got out of that business. And there is only so much consulting.

          An example. Around 25 years ago, where I live, a farmer built a golf course on his land.
          He made quite a lot of money, quite fast.
          A few other farmers thought golf clubs were a good idea, and persuaded people to invest in them
          For some reason, they didn't make much money. But other farmers saw the golf clubs and still thought it looked like easy money.
          They built golf clubs.
          Pretty soon some

          • by hellfire (86129)

            Eventually you'll be correct about your farmer story, but considering large businesses the world over are flush with cash, there's demand for consulting services. Currently it's a growth industry.

        • Here is the problem. Assuming HP gets a 0% profit margin, the people you buy servers and business consulting contracts are the same people you buy your desktops from. Makes sense to have one standard for the whole company right?

          If HP leaves the desktop market, their customers are going to switch to Dell. Guess which contracts and servers they will buy? Oh, Dell!

          HP gives 40% discounts on their products to business users so I doubt their margins are that thin. Perhaps in retail like BestBuy they are thin, but

        • by bberens (965711)
          This reminds me of GE. GE has been trying to sell off its home appliance business forever. It's a relatively simple business with steady income and GE has good market recognition, but the margins are just tiny. There's just no money in washer/dryer/refrigerators.
      • by Toonol (1057698)
        I lose count of the number of business that, unsatisfied with 'flat' or slow growth, took extreme measures to drastically increase their profit and promptly destroyed themselves.
    • by ThorGod (456163)

      Yeah, there could have been. In many ways OS X feels a lot like a modern day BeOS, though.

  • Hardware only.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by RedK (112790) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:45AM (#37469098)
    This is exactly what they said they would do a month ago. They have been quite clear going forward, they would continue work on webOS itself, just not webOS hardware. So I don't see how this is the "end" of webOS at HP, it's the same thing they've been saying for a month now.
    • by TigerTime (626140)

      Considering they only created around 2 models per year, i wonder why it required 525 hardware developers to begin with. Does HTC require that many? I doubt it. And they produce about 20 different devices a year.

      • by jittles (1613415)
        My last company developed embedded products and they had just over 100 engineers total. Most of them were involved with software. They also produced a lot more than just one or two devices in a year. I was wondering the same thing.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        i wonder why it required 525 hardware developers to begin with.

        It says "staff from its global webOS hardware biz", not "hardware developers". You have HR, finance, manufacturing, purchasing, janitors, testing, techs, etc... not just hardware engineers. They probably had it set up to be a half-billion dollar or so business, so that number of employees seems pretty reasonable.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Poor management.
    • by residieu (577863)
      So there are no more devices that run webOS. What are the OS developers going to be doing? If HP doesn't have faith in the OS, why would anyone else chose to make devices for it?
      • by Verunks (1000826)

        So there are no more devices that run webOS. What are the OS developers going to be doing? If HP doesn't have faith in the OS, why would anyone else chose to make devices for it?

        if I remember correctly they stated that they will put it inside cars and other embedded devices

        • by vlm (69642)

          So there are no more devices that run webOS. What are the OS developers going to be doing? If HP doesn't have faith in the OS, why would anyone else chose to make devices for it?

          if I remember correctly they stated that they will put it inside cars and other embedded devices

          Decades ago when HP made test equipment, a ultra-high-end spectrum analyzer with webOS would have been cool... I'm not interested in running "angry birds", I'm more interested in being able to email / web from the device itself.. Also embedded training videos would be cool. Yes I'm well aware that many years ago you could save images into diskettes or flash in the form of USB drives or camera cards. But it would be way cool to have a very common UI for phones / scopes / network analyzers / spectrum analy

          • Your ideas sound great and incredibly useful.

            We'll have none of that in modern corporate culture, please leave.
          • I imagine you can't do these things because someone somewhere owns a patent on them, and needs approximately a bajillion dollars in licensing fees. That seems to be the way the world works now - patents pushing innovation (back into the dark ages).
        • by Thud457 (234763)

          if I remember correctly they stated that they will put it inside cars and other embedded devices

          Not Ford [google.com]

          So that leaves GM or Chrysler. ie, the two companies that needed repeated bailouts to survive. A match made in heaven^W purgatory.

        • Re:Hardware only.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pavon (30274) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:58PM (#37469954)

          if I remember correctly they stated that they will put it inside cars and other embedded devices

          Yeah, I read that too. Problem is that no-one has made any agreements with them to use the OS. So they are basically just pissing away money in the hope that someone somewhere might want to license the OS, without having any concrete plans for it.

          Oh, and multitouch should be banned from car dashboards. It is the worst possible interface for that situation as requires constant focus on the display for the entire time it is being used, and thus causes far more driver distraction than physical knobs.

      • So there are no more devices that run webOS. What are the OS developers going to be doing? If HP doesn't have faith in the OS, why would anyone else chose to make devices for it?

        HP paid $1.2 billion for webOS. If they cancel it then they have a loss of $1.2 billion on their books, which looks pretty bad for the CEO. So they will keep it alive as long as possible. Or until the next CEO starts, who will cancel it and blame it (rightfully in this case) on his predecessor. When a new CEO starts, a big loss in the previous year is a good thing because that makes it a lot easier to improve the numbers.

    • Yet you'd expect a HW company to have a use for vetted HW engineers. One of the hardest elements of building a productive SW or HW team is the hiring. HP is taking a built organization and blowing it when they could probably put all these engineers to work elsewhere in the company.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        engineers? oh if they only had engineers to worry about..

        they got probably large "ux" teams(it can take a surprisingly large amount of staff to change just one font..), localisation teams and so forth - local(global) sales teams -, and umbrella organizations for each - maybe a whole buildings worth of guys just to produce one bluetooth driver in 6 months - qa teams bigger than graphics teams and graphcis teams bigger than engineers and teams who ask the engineer what they should draw as design concept pictu

  • Hardware (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tweezak (871255) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:47AM (#37469128)
    Note that the article says "hardware staff" not "WebOS Developers." Since HP is discontinuing hardware development for WebOS platforms this is not surprising. I suspect they will continue to own the operating system in hopes of licensing it to other companies.
    • by ProppaT (557551)

      Yeah, /. editors have a real knack for reading headlines, ignoring the article, and making up their own headline based on assumptions.

    • by ardiri (245358)

      CEO? where was that justification taken from?
      the article specifically talks about 525 people - which are within the hardware area of the company (logical), when i see some developer relations guys and the OS developers get fired; then i'll believe where things are going. since they do not make hardware anymore; it is only natural these are the hardware guys being flushed out.

  • by Howard Beale (92386) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:57AM (#37469248)
    Who s*cked more at their job, but gets a golden parachute?
  • by teambpsi (307527) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @11:59AM (#37469262) Homepage

    Apotheker has to be one of the worst appointments I've seen in 20 years.

    At least Chain-saw Al Dunlap was hired for the express purpose of being a major league a-hole.

    Apotheker showed a shocking poverty of understanding of the empire he was entrusted to run that it makes me seriously question the competency of the people that vetted him?

    • Exactly.

      I never thought HP would hire a CEO worse than Carly. After they proved me wrong I wondered how long Leo would last. Frankly they waited too long to can him, Especially after he canned the touchpad and sells them at a ridiculously low price to the point that everybody buys them up and sells them for twice as much on ebay. That first week after the fire sale should have been his no confidence vote right there.

      Hopefully, the new CEO realized that this WebOS debacle was a huge mistake and starts workin

    • by cartman (18204)

      Apotheker showed a shocking poverty of understanding of the empire he was entrusted to run that it makes me seriously question the competency of the people that vetted him?

      My sentiment exactly. Apotheker made decisions which were easily predicted to fail. How could he have seriously expected the WebOS tablet thing to be successful. He should have been fired awhile ago, even though he's only been CEO for less than a year.

      • by smurfsurf (892933)

        > How could he have seriously expected the WebOS tablet thing to be successful.

        It is a gamble. If it is a success, he gets all the glory and a huge bonus. If it fails, he gets a golden parachute. There is no way to lose for him, no risk, and he does not bet his own money.

        • > How could he have seriously expected the WebOS tablet thing to be successful.

          It is a gamble. If it is a success, he gets all the glory and a huge bonus. If it fails, he gets a golden parachute. There is no way to lose for him, no risk, and he does not bet his own money.

          It was a poorly run gamble. Sometimes, companies must run things at a cost to establish a presence in the market. Had HP sold the TouchPad at half the price (I know, there would be no profit in it), I'm sure the thing would have taken off. I'm biased of course, I just bought a Vizio Tablet for less than $300. Yes, I don't have 3/4G or even any type of coverage other that what I can get from a wifi spot, BUT, I saved another $300, and as it is, the Vizio Tablet fits my need. This is a compromise a lot of peo

    • Fact: the Engineers and programmers did more to keep the company profitable than anyone else. You can't live as a company without great products. Apotheker did nothing to keep the company profitable. Fire Apotheker and promote the best Engineer* to CEO. HP fixed.

      *I don't work for HP, in case someone thought I would be promoting myself. :)

  • They cant win... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:03PM (#37469300) Homepage

    Hp is a sinking ship that cant attract anyone that has any management skills. The current guy has a bad track record, and the possible replacement they are looking at, she's not much better.

    This is what happens when your products suck, your service sucks, and most people say, "HP? that stuff is crap, dont buy it"

    The only way to turn it around is to start "not sucking"....

    Step 1 - Fire every designer in the laptop division. Whoever green lighted the seamless trackpad should be tied up and whipped in front of all the other employees as an example.

    Step 2 - Fire every stylist in the PC division. Sorry but trendy = dumb and that failure of a removable drive bay needs to go. Anyone that says the word "proprietary" or "custom designed" needs to be smacked in the face without hesitation and the word "NO" yelled in their face.

    Step 3 - Fire everyone in the Printer driver division. IF the driver is not a simple small single file then it's garbage. No I dont want to install 160meg of helpers. Nobody does.

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      160MB driver? No, the driver is only 40MB, it's the crap that they bundle that wants to start up with your computer at every boot that takes up the other 120MB. Their corporate printer drivers aren't bad at all, they're basically a single INF file, but their consumer drivers are what crap aspires to be when it grows up.
      • by kaiser423 (828989)
        Ah, you must never have gotten one of their printers that is flaky as all get out with "just" the 40MB install, and you end up downloading the whole 200MB package just to get the printer to work right...
      • by glassware (195317)

        Where did you find a 160MB driver? The last HP printer driver I downloaded was 534MB. And yet for some reason it wasn't an ISO, it was a single executable file that took 15-20 minutes to install and unpackage.

        They had an alternative 4MB driver that only included the printer definition. However, the 4MB driver didn't include the scanning capability.

        Also, I've noticed that HP printers take about 1 minute to come in or out of standby mode; so printing a single page takes ~2 minutes. On any other modern pri

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Whoever green lighted the seamless trackpad should be tied up and whipped in front of all the other employees as an example.

      They could probably make a tidy profit by auctioning the position of "Whip-holder".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Billly Gates (198444)

      "Hp is a sinking ship that cant attract anyone that has any management skills.
      "

      Would you work there?

      That is the problem. Your steps just address the symptoms not the problem. The problem is all the good employees quit or were canned. Your steps are examples of cheap and bad employees who couldn't get hired elsewhere. I have a great HP monitor that has amazing color contrast and response time. Part of HP's great engineering of old. Today only the bean counters are compensated well.

      The problem is a company's

    • by bberens (965711)
      I have an HP printer and HP netbook. Guess what? The printer driver installation app requires a minimum of 1024x768, but my netbook has 1024x576... so I can't even install my HP printer on my HP netbook. There is a hack where you hold down the ctrl key when you click on the modal dialog that tells you you can't install the driver, but it took about an hour of reading blogs to find that solution. I'll never buy another HP printer.
  • Cut costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:07PM (#37469344)

    I have a feeling the bean counters have taken over completely at HP. Engineers are a cost center. Get rid of engineers. Software developers are a cost center. Get rid of software developers. Since no one in the US is willing to work for 7 cents per hour, all manufacturing takes place in China. Sell the buildings that used to contain engineers and software developers. HP will then consist of CXO's on the top floor of one building, with the next floor dedicated to bean counters, and the main floor for overseas operations (bean counters never consider themselves to be a cost center). Its easier to outsource operations, so the overseas operations will be 'rent-a-plant', and since that also includes 'rent-an-engineer', everything but the head office will be overseas. Next to go is the bottom floor. Sell to the overseas manufacturer, give the top two floors a cushy severance, and wind that baby down. Its not like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are around anymore. The founding engineers are gone. The glory days of the company were when the founders founded it, and ran it for the first 20 years. The next 20 years saw growth, but not quite so much glory for new hires. The next 20 years saw new managers come in when the founding engineers retired but oversaw things. Things got more corporate. Still an ok company to work for, but not great. The founders die, more management changes (bean counters take over). Bill Hewlett died in 2001, David Packard died in 1996. What Bill and Dave started, Carly and others have done a great job killing. I give them at the outside 10 more years, but something in my head says they will be dead in less than 5. HP joins Sun.

  • Hopefully some of those 500 people will go working on an open-source mobile OS. That's sort of missing right now.
    Also when you work on open-sour

    • also when you work on open-source you can design a keyboard that doesn't hit enter on its own when your hand is slightly too big.
      err.
      I meant to say, when you work on open-source your OS doesn't go to trash aka "on hold til we find buyer" since everyone has it.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Yes, I'm sure hardware staff will get right on developing software.
      • You might imagine that the hardware staff actually comprise a lot of software engineers, as they include driver teams and so on in hardware.

  • Ah Cringely.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by uzd4ce (1916592) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:17PM (#37469464)

    Cringely saw this one coming a long time away... ok, maybe 7 months isn't so long:

    http://www.cringely.com/2011/02/why-leo-apotheker-will-be-fired-from-hewlett-packard/ [cringely.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is the board.

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @12:28PM (#37469572) Journal
    is a facility to edit submission summaries. This way we can avoid all the posts complaining about the seriously inaccurate summary as well as all of the posts from people who can't be bothered to read the article and so are ranting and raving and opinionating about false information.

    Granted, this would probably leave only a handful of posts.

    • by twdorris (29395)

      Granted, this would probably leave only a handful of posts.

      And neither yours nor mine would make the cut, of course.

  • HP is "up for sale", looking for a buyer.

    They are hoping to be bought by Lenovo, but the Chinese responded "Who the hell needs a top-heavy organization that doesn't make anything?"

    Meanwhile HP is looking for a new CEO, and the board are considering the former head of SCO, Darl McBride...

  • Maybe we should encourage the use of Seppuku for CEOs who fail to do what they were hired to do and, instead, do seriously stupid things. That would probably save California from at least one politician, too.

  • by hattig (47930) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @01:27PM (#37470290) Journal

    Sure, you can make the figures look good in the short term by slashing R&D and firing everybody, but in the longer run you have no new products coming down the line.

    Bye bye HP. In ten years time you'll be a niche printer ink seller.

  • Sounds like to me, the one's who need to be laid off are the ones who keep picking the bad CEOs...

  • So, nobody is interested in buying this division? Perhaps this could have been another IBM/Lenovo, where some other outfit picks up the h/w, O/S and support functions and tries to make a go of it.

    If such a buyer surfaces, just watch the HP shareholders sue the pants off the company for scrapping a viable asset.

  • 1.Do something stupid, like what they just did, watch the stocks go down.. Buy.

    2. Spread the rumors of firing CEO, watch the stocks go up. Sell.

    3. Profits!

  • Let's be clear here. The headline could have been shortened to "Looks like it might be the beginning of the end (...) at HP."

    They got nuthin'. Since they spun off Agilent, they've been sliding towards the cliff, and hiring Carly was the precise moment at which they went over.

    I don't think there's a single thing that HP can do to recover at this point. Maybe they'll keep going as a printer division of another company when they're eventually bought out, but I'm not even sure that's going to be worthwhile for

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