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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  • claytontullos - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Anyone ponder that Microsoft was behind HP's decision to ditch WebOS?

    Microsoft had a lot to lose if HP became serious about WebOS.
  • taltamir - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    "ASUS, HTC, Intel and Samsung all come to mind."

    Why would they buy WebOS when they can just fork Android?
  • ViRGE - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Because you can't fork the good bits: the UI and the marketplace. The kernel and operating environment alone won't do you a lot of good (oh, and Oracle may sue you).
  • Penti - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    They already did fork it with ophone for TD-SCDMA handsets in China. You can create an environment around that, especially if you have a large enough market. You will need to roll your own SDK but it's still built around all the same software and frameworks. So for the developer it's the same developer tools, and the same APIs. It's actually an add-on for the Android SDK in OPhone's case. So you wouldn't really miss out on much, if you really wanted to you wouldn't even need to rebuild the apps for your own SDK's and it's still a fork out of Google's control.
  • Slmblck - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    It seems that at this point HP will probably have to sell the Palm/Web OS division at a much lower price than they bought it for. That said I believe that consumer confidence in WebOS has gone out the window so it probably isn't a good option for any company to invest time and money in. It's a real shame because the OS had so much potential but wasn't given a fighting chance.
  • Assimilator87 - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link


    Oh well, at least they'll fire sale the hardware real soon. I'll always have my Sprint Pre to use as a PMP. Hoping for as good of deals as HD DVDs.
  • techburgler - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    As a developer I was hoping HP would back their tablet for a while even at a loss. I figured with a company that large backing it that it would take off in the enterprise where android and iOS have yet to make large inroads. A structured release schedule for hardware would be a nice change.
  • Taft12 - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Why would you be hoping for that "as a developer"

    Also, you might not be seeing it at your workplace, but Android and iOS are making enormous inroads over the past year into the corporate market (fortune 500 no less) while RIM and MS are floundering.

    The will of the sr. managers goes a long way whether IT wants to support it or not.
  • steven75 - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    iOS is making "enormous" inroads, while Android is making sleight inroads to the corporate market.

  • Belard - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    I've always been confused by the projections that Android tablets will out sell iPad by 2012. I'm not seeing... still. Maybe a few years down the road when they are selling for $250 or so.

    I've got an Ipad, I'm open for going for an Android... if I there is one out there I like.... and fir starters, that would be a 4:3 Android, which nobody makes (AFAIK).

    The article on how Disney is using iPads for construction is cool.

    And my mother hates computers, but she'll kind of use an iPad.

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