Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

HP Pulls Plug On TouchPad Tablet, Murky Future For WebOS

In a development that sent a bolt of electricity through an otherwise moribund August news cycle, HP discontinued production of its TouchPad tablet and said it will explore options for licensing WebOS. Weak demand for WebOS devices contributed to an operating loss of $332 million for HP, and CFO Cathie Lesjak said Q4 WebOS losses would have been even deeper had HP not pulled the plug.

Killing off a product after six weeks on the market is one thing. But given the amount of TouchPad promotion HP has been doing, and its mantra-like insistence that the tablet market is a marathon and not a sprint, it would be fair for HP channel partners to wonder about HP's future in the mobility space.

Microsoft Bing Market Share Gains Stalling Out

Microsoft has spent billions on building Bing and marketing the notion that a decision engine is somehow better than Google search. At Microsoft's 2009 Worldwide Partner Conference, Steve Ballmer and other executives touted Bing as an example of Microsoft's R&D muscle. Yet the Bing decision engine has yet to make much of a dent in Google's search market lead, and there are signs that the gains it has been making may be slowing. The Bing decision engine accounted for 14.4 percent of all search queries in the U.S. in July, according to numbers released this week by market researcher ComScore. That's unchanged from June and up only 0.3 points from 14.1 percent in May. That compares with Google's 65.1 percent share of all U.S. search queries in July and 65.5 percent in June. Yahoo sites held a 16.1 percent share in July, up from 15.9 percent in June. Worse, Bing is apparently starting to drag on Microsoft's bottom line. The Online Services Division recorded an operating loss of $728 million in the fourth quarter and $2.56 billion for the fiscal year.

Sprint Scuttles Plans To Carry 4G RIM Playbook

The bad news keeps coming with what has to be a nauseating frequency for RIM. The latest example came this week when Sprint abandoned its plan to carry RIM's forthcoming 4G BlackBerry PlayBook tablet on its WiMax network.

Sprint in January said it planned to carry the 4G Playbook, but according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the carrier changed course after seeing little demand from business customers. RIM says it had decided to focus on 4G LTE instead of WiMax, and Sprint still sells the Wi-Fi PlayBook, but to call this an ominous development wouldn't be an overstatement.

Blue Coat Changes CEOs After Q1 Earnings Nosedive

Blue Coat reported Q1 earnings this week, and the fact that Blue Coat Systems President and CEO Michael Borman is leaving the company after less than a year on the job is all you need to know about how things went. For its fiscal first quarter, Blue Coat posted sales of $109.5 million, coming in below estimates of $113.4 million and down from $120.7 million in the year ago quarter and also the $120.7 million Blue Coat posted in its fiscal Q4 2011.

Blue Coat also posted profit of $2.7 million, down from $13.9 million in the year-ago quarter and $9 million in its fourth quarter. It further forecast second quarter sales of between $103 million and $110 million, which is below analyst estimates of $116 million according to an average of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Stepping into Borman's role is Gregory Clark, most recently president and CEO of Mincom, an enterprise software company acquired in July by the ABB Group

High-Flying NetApp Hits Patch Of Turbulence

After several consecutive quarters that left competing CEOs drooling with envy, NetApp ran into a spot of bother in its fiscal Q2 that caused its stock to decline. NetApp reported earnings of $139.5 million, or 34 cents per share, down 7 percent from the $150.7 million, or 40 cents per share, it reported last year.

NetApp also revealed that Steve Gomo, its long-serving executive vice president and CFO, plans to retire on December 31 after nine years with the company. Nicholas R. Noviello, NetApp's senior vice president of finance and global controller, is slated to succeed Gomo as CFO on January 1.