The story of what happened to HP is a complicated and at times a depressing narrative. Things were going okay until 2010, when CEO Mark Hurd was forced out of his leadership position due to sexytime-driven accounting improprieties. That kicked off the era of Leo Apotheker, a disaster on all fronts for HP and webOS.
It's been known for a while that late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was a fan of HP as a Silicon Valley institution, and today Businessweek published an extensive piece on HP's fall from grace that included a fascinating nugget: despite HP being a competitor on many fronts with Apple, Jobs personally urged Hurd to reconcile with HP. Jobs went so far as to personally email Hurd within a few days of his departure, asking if he "needed someone to talk to" (Jobs had gone through a similar ouster, though with less sexytimes, from Apple decades earlier).
"Hurd met Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, according to people who know both men but did not wish to be identified, compromising a personal confidence. The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around the tree-lined neighborhood. At numerous points during their conversation, Jobs pleaded with Hurd to do whatever it took to set things right with the board so that Hurd could return. Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP’s directors and to call them up one by one."
Of course, Jobs's motives in talking to Hurd and attempting to smooth the ruffled feathers of HP's board wasn't entirely personal. Jobs believed that a healthy HP was "essential to a healthy Silicon Valley," with HP essentially standing as the founding company of California's technology hotbed. Of course, Jobs was not able to bring Hurd and HP's board back together, and in things unraveled very quickly with the questionable selection of former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker as HP's new chief executive. How different things would have been under Hurd is hard to say, but it's all but certain that webOS would have been given the time and the money it needed to succeed.
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