Print 7 comment(s) - last by WT.. on Nov 2 at 2:27 PM

Innovative chief departs to gain freedom from "corporate restrictions" in pursuing new endeavors

Slowly and surely those at Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) who were involved in pushing webOS on the world have been vanishing at HP [1][2]. The exodus has been onging ever since the company announced plans to kill the struggling -- but, to its fans, much beloved -- mobile operating system.  

The latest casualty is the company Chief Technology Officer, Phil McKinney.  

Mr. McKinney was brought to the firm during the six-year tenure of former CEO Carly Fiorina.  Under Fiorina -- and later Mark Hurd -- Mr. McKinney flourished.  He was a constant source of creativity, pushing HP's newly acquired Voodoo unit to come up with some exotic gaming PC designs including the striking Blackbird and Firebird desktops and the Envy 133 laptop.

He also dreamed up intriguing software projects, such as the Pluribus effort, which took a pair of off-the-shelf HD camcorders and used them to produce quality 3D video via some clever software.  And then there was Gabble, a would-be competitor to Google Inc.'s (GOOG) YouTube, which tried to differentiate itself by making it so your videos weren’t shared with the world, but were rather kept private except among those you wished to share with.

And Mr. McKinney was fond of touchscreen projects, most of which are yet to go on sale in the U.S.  His efforts included the Vantage TouchWall (which HP showed off in concept form last year) and the DreamScreen, a slick Linux touchscreen desktop, which actually saw release (Dec. 2010) -- but only in India.

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney [Source: DJEvents on Flickr]

And then of course there was webOS.  Mr. McKinney had a soft spot for the slick multi-tasking multi-touch operating system, which HP acquired near the end of Mark Hurd's reign at CEO.  The CTO worked with a team to create a slick Twitter app -- Twynergy -- which was a webOS exclusive.


It's unclear from his departure note whether Mr. McKinney was dissatisfied with HP, was pressured to leave, or simply (as he says) wanted to pursue new and different avenues.

He writes:

My time at HP started out as an advisor on innovation that turned into a request to join for a year or so to "help grow the innovation culture at HP".  That was 9 years ago.  I can honestly say that I've done everything that is within my power to fulfill that objective.
I’m also excited that once again, I will be able to take on board seats, advisory roles and mentoring opportunities since I will no longer have to worry about conflict of interest and other corporate restrictions.

Mr. McKinney will depart at the end of the year and take with him another bit of what defined webOS's brief life at HP.

Source: Phil McKinney

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RE: hp: "Farewell creativity"
By slunkius on 11/2/2011 2:14:34 AM , Rating: 2
makes you wonder how Webos would have fared if Mark Hurd stayed as CEO at HP. After all, Palm was his purchase.

RE: hp: "Farewell creativity"
By bupkus on 11/2/2011 3:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
Even if Mark Hurd would have later decided against webOS, at least there would have been a fair review.
hp is now a joke.

RE: hp: "Farewell creativity"
By drycrust3 on 11/2/2011 4:11:56 AM , Rating: 2
if Mark Hurd stayed as CEO at HP

My guess is he foresaw that within a few years most people will be accessing the internet via mobile devices, that being dependent on one closed source operating system which you have little control over could seriously jeopardise a lot of engineering work, that having healthy application libraries encourages potential purchasers to buy your product, and that you need to be careful to avoid patent infringement.
In the case of the first part, HP had bought Palm and had released mobile phones and tablets, but after Hurd left the Board of Directors canned all this and went and purchased a software company that has almost nothing to do with either the mobile device market or the internet. The end result is either HP will have to do all the work Hurd and Fiorina had done again, or they will eventually drop out of personal computers and just supply the server market.
In the case of the second, Nokia is an excellent example of a phone company that has bet on a closed source operating system who's supplier who has been slow in getting their product to the manufacturer to meet market requirements.
In the third factor the small number of applications may result in people actually trading in their Windows Phone mobile and moving to a competitors' product. Of course, one could argue this fate could have befallen HP / Palm, but the presence of applications for the tablets they sold shows HP could have had a decent application library.
Lastly, the fact there was almost no comments regarding patent infringements by competitors doesn't mean WebOS didn't infringe, but it does suggest that if there was it wasn't worth making a fuss about.
While it isn't exactly certain how the future will pan out, if the current indications are correct then one can expect hundreds of millions of mobile devices to be sold in the next 4 years, and HP could have been part of that, and probably would have been part of it if Hurd had stayed. The fact that an HP tablet with Android escaped from the lab suggests how desperately the R & D staff were working to get HP to be part of that market.

RE: hp: "Farewell creativity"
By BeeksElectrics on 11/2/2011 9:36:39 AM , Rating: 2
The reason Palm/HP never had patent issues is because they held the biggest patents of them all - the patents to make a smartphone in the first place. Palm created the market and patented all the necessary IP, but unlike the patent trolls out there, they were legitimately interested in competing in the market, so they merely held them as defensive tools to protect their further developments.

Apple threatened, but never pursued action against Palm, because to do so could have backfired and left them unable to sell the iPhone, as it infringed several prior Palm patents. Thus, Palm could "infringe" on Apple's patents and not have to worry about it, whereas Google and their partners with their limited patent portfolio doesn't have that luxury.

Now that HP is out of the market but still owns those patents, it will be interesting to see what happens. Will HP sell them to the highest bidder - if Apple buys them, it's the smoking gun and could bring the entire market to its knees since they are rather unlikely to license them willingly. If Microsoft buys them, everyone in the market will likely have to license them or face litigation. If Google licenses them, they could turn the tide in their patent war against the other two. The craziest proposition would be HP going total thermonuclear war and suing everyone. Start popping your popcorn people, things could get interesting.

RE: hp: "Farewell creativity"
By WT on 11/2/2011 2:27:55 PM , Rating: 2
Good info ^^^ !! I'm still interested in buying a TP, even after all that has gone down over the past few weeks. Technology is turning into a grenade missing a pin lately.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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