Looking at the headlines in the last couple of days, regarding HP’s announcement that they are no longer going to build WebOS devices, most media services have announced it as killing WebOS itself. Technically, HP says they are keeping WebOS around, and are open to, well, something. However, by killing the devices, and not having any actual plans for 3rd-party licensees or other uses for the technology, like using it for custom or embedded devices (printers, in-car infotainment), they have, effectively killed WebOS itself. It doesn’t matter that, again technically, that WebOS is “still around”. If there aren’t any devices using it, and no specific plans to use it in the near future, it is as good as dead. Gone, History, Kaput. Perhaps it may rise from the ashes again. But for now, it’s gone.
But this, combined with the “plans” to spin off the PC business, with no actual plan or details on how or what they are going to do, makes HP look confused and a bit disorganized. Is the PC spin-off just the retail desktops and notebooks, but HP will continue to sell into the enterprise? Will all desktops and notebooks be spun off? Will it be a new company that HP will set up, or will they sell it to someone else? How entangled is their desktop/notebook business with parts of the server business? How much of that spin-off includes HP chip designers, and how does that impact the server side? When IBM did their spin-off, we knew pretty clearly what was going: basically all the desktops and notebooks. It was setup and packaged as a self-contained organization, and IBM was selling it as a complete, ready-to-go package, and IBM was pretty clear on what impact it was going to have on the server business. They also did what they could to minimize the hit on the server buseinss. HP hasn’t done anything near this clear and obvious.
If HP is wondering why their stock took a 20% hit on the price: It’s because people are perceiving them as lost and confused. Investors and analysts are having a hard time trying to understand how good or bad the PC spin-off will be, because HP hasn’t told them how they plan to do it. Investors and analysts have basically written off WebOS, because HP hasn’t built a plan for what to do with the software.
So, the actual facts are: HP is considering spinning off the PC business, stopping WebOS device development but keeping WebOS alive. However, the perception is: the PC spin-off could be messy, if we knew how it was going to actually work,WebOS is dead, and HP doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to do in either case. No matter how much HP would like people to focus on the facts, the reality is that people are going to look at the perception. That’s how people work. And HP is doing themselves no favours by having no actual plans for either the PC spin-off or the future of WebOS. HP may not like it, but perception is reality, and they have a lot of work to try to undo the damage they’ve caused to themselves as a result.