HP CEO Whitman: Some WebOS People Are Leaving, And That's OK

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Hewlett Packard's WebOS business unit has been mired in uncertainty since the company abruptly dirt-napped the TouchPad last August, but HP is confident that the open-source course it's charting with WebOS will lead to a brighter future.

So says HP CEO Meg Whitman, who acknowledged in an interview earlier this week at HP's Palo Alto, Calif.-based headquarters that WebOS turmoil has caused some employees to jump ship.

"This has been a very rocky period for the former Palm team/WebOS team that we built. And this was not a happy set of occurrences over the last six to eight months. So we have lost some people," Whitman told CRN.

After several weeks of deliberation, HP in December announced its intention to make WebOS available as open-source software. Whitman said that decision has gone a long way toward clarifying matters and bringing much needed stability to the remaining employees -- there are reportedly around 600 -- in the WebOS business unit.

"What I said to all the employees is, 'We need each of you to decide whether this is something that gets you excited'," Whitman said. "Now there is a clear vision of what we're trying to accomplish ... I think people are signing on. Some are going to sign off, and that's OK, because we actually now have a way forward."

Jon Rubinstein, who at one time was HP's chief WebOS evangelist, resigned from HP effective Friday. Other high profile WebOS executive departures include Richard Kerris, former vice president of WebOS worldwide developer relations, who joined Nokia in October as head of global developer relations; and Michael Rizkalla, senior director of WebOS application development, who joined San Francisco-based startup Xobni as senior director of mobile applications.

In addition, a steady stream of WebOS salespeople and engineers have left for positions at Apple, Intel and several mobile startups.
Whether or not the WebOS talent exodus continues remains to be seen, but HP's intentions for WebOS are now clearer than they’ve been since the Aug. 18 earnings call.

Next: Will Developers Jump On Board The Open WebOS Express?

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