HP Blows Its Last Shot At Open Source Credibility

Aug. 1.12 | About: HP Inc. (HPQ)

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, you can't get fooled again.

Yeah, George W. Bush sort of butchered the quote, but it has good application today. That's because Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which floundered throughout the Bush era, has blown its last chance at credibility in the best thing to come out of that era -- the open source movement.

HP jerked the community around, making webOS open source as it was killing its Touchpad tablet effort and has pulled the rug out today by denying it access to the installed base of hardware just as a new, open source version of the software is ready to go.

This is the kind of Lucy-and-the-football game big vendors used to play with open source a decade ago. Throw a failed product over the side, make some pretense of it being open source, then quietly abandon it when no one is looking. It's the same thing failing print publications did in the 1990s, when they claimed to be going virtual when they were in fact just going out of business.

Trouble is, it's not 2002 any more. Fool me twice, you can't get fooled again.

In open source credibility is the coin of the realm. You gain credibility by giving open source projects under your aegis the tools they need to grow -- programmers, money, and hardware to run on. You lose credibility by failing to grant these things. And you can't buy it back.

Meg Whitman has just thrown hers away.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.