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Industry screw-ups of 2011

Posted: 27 Dec 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electronics supply chain? electronics market? consumer electronics?

Despite the hoopla, the Energy Department is continuing to invest in the sector, including a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366 Technologies which is developing a way to use bulk silicon to make wafers used in solar cells. It remains to be seen if Solyndra's problems will sour investors on still-promising CIGs and thin-film solar technologies.

C Rick Merritt

1. HP's TouchPad/PC/webOS mess
When it comes to the biggest blunder in electronics in 2011, there is no debate: Hewlett-Packard Co.'s August 18 announcement that it would discontinue operations for its webOS devicesincluding the much-hyped TouchPad media tablet, which had been available for a grand total of 49 daysand explore the spinout of its PC business was not only No. 1 with a bullet, it was one of the all-time greats.

HP Touchpad

HP's Touchpad was discontinued after only 49 days of being available in the market.

Even if you happen to believe that HP did the right thing by throwing in the towel on TouchPad, you can consider the blunder to HP's bringing the product to market in the first place. There's really no room for middle ground here: either HP flubbed by introducing the product, or it flubbed by abandoning it a month and half later.

But the events of August 18 were a multifaceted blunder, one which resulted in then-CEO Lo Apotheker being shown the door after less than a year on the job.

First of all, the news of HP's announcement was leaked hours before the official announcement and reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Bloomberg news service and others. (Remember how much HP's board loves leaks). By the time HP's announcement hit the wires after market close, the world was already scratching its head about what was going on at HP.

At the time, Apotheker indicated that dropping the webOS productswhich also included Palm Pre handsetswas a difficult decision, but that the products were not selling adequately.

Confounding the drama, the HP TouchPad briefly become the No. 1 selling media tablet after HP discontinued it, reportedly selling out in a matter of hours (albeit at a reduced price, $99, compared to the original $499).

On the PC business, many were taken aback by the proclamation that the world's No. 1 PC vendor would consider alternatives for selling or spinning out that part of its business. Several months later, after Meg Whitman replaced Apotheker and undertook a review of the action, Whitman reversed the decision, saying the PC business would stay put.

And, as a final, sad footnote to the events of August 18, HP said earlier this month that, unable to find a buyer, it would open source webOS. That move, along with others, raises serious questions about which now must, in hindsight, be considered one of the biggest blunders of 2010HP's $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm Inc.

A fine mess, all the way around.

C Dylan McGrath


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