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Peter Skillman (front) has left HP/Palm; so have the other three Palm executives pictured in this 2009 Forbes magazine special.  (Source: Thomas Broening/Forbes Magazine)

Skillman, among other things, designed the ill-fated Palm Pre smart phone.  (Source: AP)
Issues continue for the world's top computer maker

Hewlett Packard is the world's largest producer of personal computers.  However, over the last couple years it was left trying to catch up -- first in the netbook market, and now in the red-hot tablet market.

To make matters worse, HP CEO Mark Hurd resigned over allegedly trying to cover up his relationship with an HP contractor.  Now, HP has endured another high profile executive's departure.

Peter Skillman, the Vice President of Design at Palm (whose purchase was completed by HP in July), has jumped ship.  Skillman had 11 years with Palm and was the man in charge of the design of the Palm Pre, a phone that generated relatively enthusiastic reviews, but failed to catch on with consumers.  In an interview with Forbes Skillman in 2009 remarked with regards to the Pre, "We wanted to build something really soft and precious yet robust that would be very different from the hard, pragmatic products in the market"

Overall Skillman's wealth of mobile device experience -- 20 years in total -- will be sorely missed.  What's more, his departure means that the Pre's entire executive team has jumped ship.  Michael Abbott (head of webOS) left for Twitter in April; Matias Duarte (head of webOS design work) left for Google's Android project; and Mike Bell (VP of Product Development) jumped to Intel.

Palm's former CEO Jon Rubinstein, a HP veteran himself, is reportedly still with the company and very much in the thick of the discussion to become Mark Hurd's replacement.  Aside from Rubinstein, though, Palm's executive ranks have been decimated by mass exodus.

There are a lot of reasons why a company might acquire another. 

Sometimes an acquisition occurs because the company sees value in its acquisition's products or staff talent and wants to leverage that value.  If this is the case of HP and Palm, HP is doing a pretty poor job with its follow through.  It's obviously not giving Palm's staff incentive to stay with it, which seriously diminishes the possibility of new product development.

Sometimes the purchase is to acquire a desirable brand.  HP obviously isn't interested in the Palm brand, as the brand was quite weak at this point and HP has already indicated it will brand any new Palm designs as "HP" products.

So why did HP acquire Palm and why is it now letting the company's executives slip away?  It's possible the move was merely to acquire Palm's intellectual property portfolio, including webOS and smartphone technologies.  Perhaps it really doesn't need Skillman, Bell, Duarte, and Abbott for its smartphone objectives.  However, the issue here becomes that if HP fails in its upcoming smartphone bid, it will be easy to blame the company's failure to retain these key players.



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what?
By SandmanWN on 8/10/2010 10:01:54 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
However, the issue here becomes that if HP fails in its upcoming smartphone bid, it will be easy to blame the company's failure to retain these key players.

Uhm, but they failed didn't they? Don't care what key players they were, they sunk palm. Seems infinitely more likely that whether they are there or not makes about as much sense as the second guessing back and forth of this blog post.




RE: what?
By n00bxqb on 8/10/2010 10:14:05 AM , Rating: 3
Well, both HP and Palm failed in the Smartphone market. HP by making junk phones, Palm, though their phones were decent and OS ahead of its time, they failed by exclusively selling their product with a service provider with little market penetration combined with a terrible advertising campaign.

WebOS is easily a match for Android or iOS, some would even argue it's better thanks to its superior multi-tasking capabilities (which iOS sucks at and Android is pretty good, but WebOS is a little better).

HP and Palm still have the resources and the technology to make an impact in the Smartphone market, but they really need to get their act together as they're already far behind and, with Windows Phone 7 launching soon, their window of opportunity is closing.


RE: what?
By Taft12 on 8/10/2010 10:37:51 AM , Rating: 2
Palm failed in the market, but as you point out the key factors (carrier partner and ad campaign) were sales and marketing's clusterf*cks, not engineering's.

Unfortunately for HP, these guys jumping ship are engineering division VPs. HP may own the IP, but they are losing the talent. The value of the acquisition is diminishing daily.


RE: what?
By icrf on 8/10/2010 5:56:18 PM , Rating: 2
Out of curiosity, how many times are the executives the real talent of any company? Isn't there a small army of regular folk that worked on all these products that may have had more productive input into them? Yes, there is skill in making the choice when given options, to manage and motivate people to hit deadlines and acquire talent, but an executive is a typically management role.

In my opinion, managers are no less interchangeable than engineers. Losing the decision makers of a company is not the same thing as losing the talent of the company.


RE: what?
By n00bxqb on 8/10/2010 8:39:08 PM , Rating: 2
Both the Engineers and Executives are equally important. I think you're underestimating the value of a GOOD executive. Yes, you have some guys who are grossly overrated for what they actually contribute to the company, but a good executive can give your engineering team a huge advantage when it comes to developing your product and selling it in the marketplace.

Do you think Microsoft and Apple would be where they are today if they were just companies comprised of direction-less engineers ?


RE: what?
By Zingam on 8/10/2010 11:59:56 PM , Rating: 2
No! Executives are the most important thing in the world: it doesn't matter if company heads, army officers, kings, etc. If they are good, they'll acquire the proper people for the job, because that's their job.


RE: what?
By icrf on 8/11/2010 10:20:30 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not trying to say good executives are unimportant, but losing executives doesn't mean the teams of people working for them are suddenly worthless.


HP = Epic Fail
By Belard on 8/10/2010 10:12:30 AM , Rating: 2
Simple as that.

Might as well buy stock in Amiga Technology.




RE: HP = Epic Fail
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2010 10:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
The Amiga was actually an excellent platform back in the day, though.

Well, until you discover the Sharp X68000--now _that_ was a fine piece of equipment... too bad the Japanese kept it to themselves. Same processors though that the Amiga and Mac's used, interestingly.


RE: HP = Epic Fail
By Belard on 8/10/2010 3:40:17 PM , Rating: 2
I had no insults towards Amiga... but the retards who owned and "managed" its IP.

The Sharp X68000 was an amazing hardware design, looks good for today even (87-93) with a few graphical enhancements. But in the end, it was not much more than an Atari ST Clone. It came with a bastardized Japanese version of an MS-DOS like OS, single tasking OS, horrible GUI - like the Atari ST. Of course both were knock off's of the Amiga.

note: Amiga was in development before the Mac hit the market.

Sad thing... it took Microsoft and PC-hardware about 10~15 years later to come up with an OS/system that was mostly equal Amiga.
Amiga = 1985, 7mhz / 512k - color/sound and MULTi-Tasking OS.

Windows95 with a Pentium 100mhz was still rather slugish next to a 25mhz Amiga... but MS finally had a GUI OS. But Win95 sucked balls. Win98 was much better, but the horrible MS-DOS boot up was Ah-so pre-Amiga tech. Until Win2000/XP did Microsoft finally surpass Amiga OS technology (Mostly) - still had that DOS installer.

For an Amiga, with a blank HD. You booted up with a floppy into a GUI OS and had GUI HD-TOOLs to format and partition the drive. A single reboot in 10 seconds and you were booted off the HD.

I still have my Amiga 1000 and 3000. My favorites. Both work. Ran MacOS on them tell from time to time.


So, wait...
By amanojaku on 8/10/2010 10:14:20 AM , Rating: 2
Jodie Fisher was bangin' five guys at HP? She's shouldn't be suing for harassment, she should be suing for back pay!

/not-so-creative-misinterpretation




RE: So, wait...
By MrBlastman on 8/10/2010 10:43:45 AM , Rating: 2
They really must have been hardon her.


By rdhood on 8/10/2010 10:50:42 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously. HP fires employees at the drop of a hat.

Hurd had to go. The problem is that they preach ethics to the employees. They are required to take hours of ethics training every year. According to NPR, Hurd apparently failed to mention Jodie as one of the people at dinner on the expense reports that he filed. Aside from the appearance of impropriety, HP considered the inappropriate expense reports to be a breach of ethics.

It is hard to spend millions preaching breach-of-ethics to the tribe as a cause for termination, and then let the chief have a pass.




By vision33r on 8/10/2010 12:42:17 PM , Rating: 2
Palm had a small window to capture customers and they missed big time by signing to an exclusive deal with the smaller carrier. Had they gone with Verizon initially, they would've survive and gained traction.

Now, they are just another gimmick OS.

They should've give away the Palm Pre for free on Verizon, better than giving it away free right now when nobody wants them anymore.




Bad Tech Decisions
By Ammohunt on 8/10/2010 2:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
Hey HP! (Alpha + PARISC) - Itanium = win for HP and Win for Consumers.




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