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HP's former CEO Leo Apotheker killed WebOS

The mystery has been solved. Hewlett-Packard's short-lived CEO Leo Apotheker was responsible for ending the young the life of Palm WebOS, according to the company's former CTO.

It was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Opotheker in the library with the candlestick who killed off Palm.

Leo Apotheker
Leo Apotheker Dan Farber/CNET

In a recent interview with fellow author Rick Mathieson to promote his new book, Beyond the Obvious: Killer Questions That Spark Game-Changing Innovation, former HP Chief Technology Officer Phil McKinney divulged some interesting tidbits about who was responsible for pulling the plug on Palm's WebOS.

He said that it was Leo Apotheker, HP's then CEO, who made the decision to kill Palm's WebOS mobile operating system. HP had only owned the struggling handset maker for about 16 months before it announced it was pulling the plug.

McKinney said in the interview that the cancellation of WebOS came as a surprise to him since HP had decided that it would give the Palm team three years to develop the software and revive the products.

News of the interview was first reported by the blog WebOS Nation.

"Palm had been struggling and HP was stepping in, doing the acquisition, and we were basically going to take three years hands-off. Palm was basically going to get a cash infusion, resources, and expertise. But Palm was going to be given three years to basically get itself positioned to be a market leader in its space. Now, fast forward to July of 2011 and, one, you had a swap out of the CEOs--Leo comes in as the new CEO--and HP, for whatever reason--I was not a part of this decision--made the decision to kill it one year into the three year program. This is an example of not committing long term to the resources and not having patience for innovation, and I'm disappointed that HP made that decision."

Apotheker, a former SAP exec, became CEO of HP in November 2010, after former HP chief executive Mark Hurd stepped down. But he was in the position for less than a year before the board replaced him. In the short time he was in charge, Apotheker took the company down a different path, focusing efforts on "cloud services" and software. He discontinued the newly launched TouchPad tablet and even considered spinning off the PC business.

Apotheker took over as CEO only seven months after HP had acquired Palm. And when the company announced it was killing the software and all products associated it with it August 2011, Apotheker said that the software had not met certain sell-through milestones.

The TouchPad tablet, which used the webOS software, was only on the market for about two months before HP killed the product line. McKinney's comments suggest that Apotheker had already made up his mind about what to do with the Palm operating system before ever giving the former handset maker a chance to succeed.

Fans of Palm and the webOS software were disappointed to see it disappear, but few believed it could catch the momentum of competing operating system Google Android. Still, prominent executives, like Verizon's CTO Tony Melone, were hopeful that HP could get the software back on track to make it a viable third alternative in the mobile OS market.