HP sells its HALO video conferencing product for $89 Million

HP has just announced the sale of its HALO video conferencing product to Polycom for $89 million. See the NY times story here

While I know that analysts are meant to be above “snark” (ha ha) but this is a real “TOLD YOU SO!” moment for me, made all the more yummy by the fact that when I was demoed Halo by HP in 2006 I made two key comments –

  • It was (and still is) horridly expensive (At $500,000 per room)
  • It was utterly closed – I asked about interconnection with things like Microsoft NetMeeting, Skype and other video conferencing technologies

Neither of these comments seemed to go down well at the time, indeed my thoughts on openness actually caused a slightly patronising smirk to appear on the face of one of the executives who was briefing us.

There is an important lesson here, Tech companies have a very natural tendency to cherish the technology that they own, and this can lead to a degree of myopia when it comes to understanding how that technology will play out beyond the lab and the corporate koolaid.

It’s difficult when someone tells you that your baby is ugly (or in the case of Halo – fantastically expensive and not at all sociable), but success in the world of Tech depends as much on the products you were willing to can (or dramatically revise) as it does the ones that you run with.

All this leads me to HP’s latest “HALO” – WebOS.

Somewhat like HALO WebOS has much to recommend it – It’s a very very nifty mobile operating system, it has some open source street cred as it’s based on Linux. But it’s still going to fail in the market place.

Because the quality of your tech is only one ingredient in the souffle of success – Ecosystem, licensing, development support and “cool” are all equally important. Alas, its strength notwithstanding – WebOS has none of ┬áthese.

Alarmingly HP CEO Leo Apotheker has been quoted saying:

I happen to believe that WebOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system. It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet.

Whoever briefed Leo (and I’m guessing he’s only ever used a Blackberry because while WebOS is very good – it’s nothing like “uniquely outstanding” when set against some of the best Android devices or the iPhone.) was being, at best, “disingenuous” in pitching WebOS that way.

My advice to HP is – “Step away from the WebOS koolaid”. Set aside any thoughts you have of WebOS taking over the world. If you think that the future of mobile operating systems lies with a Linux core (and there’s every reason to think it might well) then take that expertise and produce a kick-ass Droid variant.

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