HP just announced its plans to discontinue operations on webOS devices, specifically the recently announced TouchPad and webOS phones. The future of webOS is uncertain as HP simply added that it would "continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward". This likely means that HP is looking to either license out the software or dump it in an outright sale. 

At this point I don't know that HP needs to be at the helm of the webOS project. Licensing it out could generate short term revenue from companies looking to hedge their bets against Google/Motorola, but unless HP takes on a development partner I don't know that there's much of a future for webOS under HP's command. 

That leaves an outright sale. It's clear that HP wants to focus its business on the high margin enterprise space where success is a bit more guaranteed and away from the ultra competitive, regularly shifting consumer and ultra mobile markets. I firmly believe HP could have made Palm/webOS successful, but it would have to be commited to the platform for the long haul (read: 5+ years).

Who could do better with webOS? ASUS, HTC, Intel and Samsung all come to mind. The three Android partners could be interested in giving the vertically integrated route a try. As I mentioned in my review, had the TouchPad been free of bugs and performance issues it would be the best tablet on the market. Any of the three Android partners could continue to fund webOS development and leverage their hardware expertise. Unfortunately neither ASUS, HTC nor Samsung has a particularly great history of software development so any of them would be a risk.

Intel is the wild card here. After Nokia's recent unveiling of its first MeeGo phone it became very clear just how much potential the OS had. With Nokia's departure from the MeeGo partnership that leaves Intel without a hardware partner and not a tremendous need for new software. That being said, Intel has clearly expressed interest in supporting an alternative mobile OS that's truly open. An Intel purchase of webOS would at least put the project in the hands of a company that has real vision and the ability to execute it. 

I feel for the folks who did the impossible at Palm and created webOS in the first place. As a company Palm just needed resources to finish its task. HP looked like the home that could provide just that but in the end it ended up being another unfortunate roadblock for what was one of the most promising OSes in the mobile space.

Unless the perfect acquisitor steps forward, I'm afraid webOS may end up being the latest casualty of consolidation in the smartphone/tablet space.

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  • jed22281 - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link


    The rumor started-off thanks to a story run with 1st by Engadget.
    The source was an interview with a non-English rag in the EU.
    Where Elop purportedly said:
    "There will be no more MeeGo devices ever, even if the N9's successful"

    This English interpretation was later totally debunked by native speakers.
    But mainstream BLOGs (mostly US-based) like Engadget, kept running with it as fact.
    Not sure why, I guess it's a case of "never let facts get in the way of a good story".

    In some ways I don't blame them....
    Given all the things senior management's done/planned in the past 6mth+
    It's hard not to feel that they really only have eyes for WP, now & forever.
    I hope that's not the reality longer-term though, I really do.
  • mino - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Nokia was dead the momet they let that micro person catch the helm.

    Those veteran depts are sure to fight hard, but in the end, piecemeal, even the most resistant will just get written off. No matter how much they try to piss into the wind.

    Sad, but one needs to learn accepting the reality.
  • aspartame - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    This is how big companies go bankrupt or sold; by wasting billions in nonsense projects.
  • Targon - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    WebOS was a good idea, but the problem is that HP left it in the hands of idiots like Ruby, who was completely inept when it came to releasing devices. They announce specs, then wait six months before release, then they did it again with HP. If they had released the Pre 3 FIRST, back in April-May, it would have been seen as a competitive device(single-core 1.4GHz may not sound as good as dual-core 1.2GHz, but it's still respectable). With sales of the Pre 3, releasing the Touchpad next would have provided a nice combination "halo effect" where sales of one boost sales of the other.

    Of course, they release the device that most would expect to sell the least, the Veer, then they release the Touchpad, with no mention of the Pre 3, which would have sold people on the idea of Touch to Share. TTS really is a great idea, and there is a LOT of potential there, such as linking to something like the smartboards you see in schools today. So, great potential, and HP execs were just too inept to figure out how to release more than two devices in a one year period.
  • Malih - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Going open source is perhaps a possible solution, let the community takeover.
    I'm thinking Mozilla who has a vision of building a mobile OS could help them in that regard.
  • Cannyone - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    If HP didn't want to build the free apps to make the platform at least look viable then they shouldn't blame consumers for not wanting to buy into their "half supported" platform. Obviously they failed to think this through...
  • ViRGE - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    What I have to wonder is what current TouchPad owners will do. With an announcement like this it's a foregone conclusion that HP will immediately stop WebOS development, so who is going to develop software updates for the TouchPad? It seems to me that the TouchPad just became DOA: HP has the buyers' money, and won't be handing out updates or bug fixes in return.

    I guess everyone returns them then? Or since it's been under 2 months since they became available, do a chargeback if they use a credit card?
  • jjj - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Asus doesn't have the scale for it's own OS.
    Qualcomm and LG might see some value in buying WebOS.Too bad Nokia already chose a path.
  • snoozemode - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    What about Facebook? Seriously. But maybe too integrated with Microsoft?
  • SixOfSeven - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    HP's exit from these businesses is really the endgame of the Carly Fiorina fiasco. Since she never stopped thinking that she was right, maybe she would like to kick in a few bazillion from her severance pay and buy these operations from HP. Then she could show us what she's really made of.

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