What does it mean when the world's largest PC manufacturer quits? Some say it's the death knell for PCs. That may be the case, but only because companies, like HP, are turning tail and running rather than fighting back. Don't.
HP announced yesterday that not only will they stop making WebOS devices, but they're considering spinning-off their PC business and likely selling it. HP is currently the largest PC manufacturer in the world, but they look to be taking a page from IBM's book and spinning off their PC hardware interests. Looking at that from another angle, they are going to take a profitable part of their business, and toss it overboard.
HP makes money on PCs. They do! It was a third of their revenue last year. But they've read enough tea leaves to know that people don't want PCs anymore, that making PCs is a business with a lot of overhead, and that it's easier to pull the plug than to recharge the defibrillator.
And what's HP's excuse? CEO Leo Apotheker (who has software, not hardware, in his bone marrow) blames the "tablet effect," saying that HP has definitely felt it. Let's be real here: "tablet effect" is just code for "Apple effect." And it's a cheap deflection from the real problem.
Yes, Apple's business is expanding, while growth in the PC market has slowed to a crawl the last several years—it even shrank in the first quarter of this year. All that's true, but you can't keep up with Apple if you quit instead of innovating. And don't tell me that you tried to innovate with the TouchPad and you failed. No. Throwing in the towel six weeks after you release a product that you almost got right doesn't cut it. It just shows a lack of fortitude. Yes, the TouchPad wasn't good, but WebOS was. The problem was the hardware. Don't believe me? WebOS reportedly ran twice as fast on an iPad 2 than it did on the TouchPad. So, you figure out how you screwed up the hardware, and you fix it. You try again. And you sure as hell release the TouchPad 2 as fast as you possibly can. You don't throw in the towel.
But back to PCs. When demand for Apple's product is going up, and demand for your product is going down, you don't quit. You don't just take the short-hand money and walk away. Why? Because the world needs you to innovate! When Apple's stampeding toward you, circle your wagons, come up with a better plan, then come out firing. If the world's biggest PC manufacturer doesn't, then who will?
Apple's not the reason the PC is dying. The PC only dies if PC-makers turn coward and run away. The world needs Apple competitors. It needs better Apple competitors. I switched from a PC laptop to a MacBook Pro a few years ago because I was working on a project where I had to use FinalCut Pro. Now that that project is over and Apple has screwed up Final Cut, there's no reason why I couldn't switch back to a PC. Really, there is a lot about OSX that pisses me off on a daily basis. The thing is, I still need a compelling reason to switch. I need to know why my life will be sweeter if I go back to PC. I want to know that they are going to push the limits and only get better, otherwise why shouldn't I just stick with the status quo? Seriously, PC makers, GIVE ME A REASON TO SWITCH! I'm practically begging you.
What's worse is that Intel is trying to make this so easy for you. They're investing $300 million of their own personal money so that you can finally make a MacBook Air competitor that's worth a damn without doubling the price. See that money? Take it! Use it! Make something wonderful that's not a printer with apps.
If you see a little dip in your market share, pee yourselves, and run away, then Apple is our only alternative. And, I'm sorry, but I don't want to live in a world made by Apple. I like buttons! I like options! But damn it, PCs, if you don't nutt-up, stick your neck out, and really come up with a better product, then that's the world you're leaving us with. That won't have been created by us, the users, who walked away from your product. That will created by you, the PC manufacturers, for being too slow to adapt to a changing world.
Do not run away from this fight. You will be making the world a worse place, with fewer options and less competition pushing innovation. We need you (I'm talking to YOU, HP!). Now fucking grow a pair and come out swinging!
Image credit: Shutterstock/Andre Blais