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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  • Belard - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    They are already previewing Windows8. Its 100% compatible with Windows7. Meaning it'll eat up about the same or more space for its OS and have similar hardware requirements.

    Compared to iOS, Android, WebOS and WP7.... Windows 8 *IS BLOATED* for a mobile device.

    It'll require more drive space SSD or HD - like current Windows7 tablets which also tends to drive up the price. A Desktop OS doesn't have that instant ON of a mobile OS. etc etc...
  • bigboxes - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Maybe a fire sale. I know Lenovo passed on it before HP bought it, but now they can have it cheap. It doesn't make sense to let it die. Thanks HP. :eyeroll:
  • Penti - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Sad news. Seems very premature as they haven't even hadn't got out the Pre3 on the market yet thus having a incomplete lineup, which also means incomplete software wise, third party support, number of potential devices with the software and so on.

    As for a sale of the WebOS division I don't think it's likely and it would be hard to find a company where it would fit, as they would need to have nothing themselves which they can build on, can't be invested in Android or MeeGo at any depth and can't simply be interested to sell a pre package os and product, they could just buy a license from HP for that any way or try to win ground with Microsofts products or whatever else. Companies like RIM, Nokia, Samsung etc is pretty much out of question and it would also include companies like LG who could rather invest in MeeGo or Android or whatever. Basically companies that have a successful platform (or aren't interested in building their own OS/Linux solution) can't make it fit.
  • Kakureru - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    I knew HP f'd up when they thought they could go up against apple with similar pricing and lesser features. The yes men need to be fired.
  • Belard - Friday, August 26, 2011 - link

    We will build it, they will come!

    Yeah, same price without the Support, service, quality, bug-less, appls, support-software (ala iTunes), music of book library, functional camera, high speed. (My iPad-1 is more responsive!).

    Now... if HP somehow *SOLD* the TouchPad for $300 MSRP... that would be something.
  • TiredTech - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Google can hedge their bets for the next 3-5 years on successful Android litigation. Acquiring webOS for pennies on the dollar - 10MM to 50MM range - would give Google incite on excellence in UI development for use in Android. Cheap insurance and Motorola set top box hardware with multitasking webOS would make for a killer cable viewing experience.
  • The0ne - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    I was all set to develop apps on the WebOS and now poof :( I had wanted it to be able to compete and hopefully could use the multitasking part of it to its fullest. That is what attracted me most to WebOS as I grew up with Commodore and have design most of my microcontrollers around the Motorola CPUs. Oh well, disappointed that this didn't go through.
  • Spazweasel - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    The problem is simply that there are so many mobile operating systems already out there, competing not only for buyers but also developers. Given that the OS is merely a platform for third-party applications these days, the people you really have to convince are app developers.

    You need a good way for apps to get sold.
    You need a large installed base to sell to (who will actually PAY for apps).
    You need a platform that is easy to port to or from.
    You need an excellent developer support program.
    You need a good SDK.
    You need major carriers willing to promote your OS over their already-successful OS partners.

    Those are all major hurdles, and you have to overcome all of them to be successful, while competing with well-established alternatives. Like it or not, iOS and Android thoroughly own the mobile OS space. Microsoft can afford to throw time and money at the problem. Blackberry, though dying, still has an existing customer base; ditto for SYmbian-based phones.

    How can WebOS (or MeeGo) overcome all that? What developer is going to port to a fourth or fifth platform? What carrier is going to push a risky OS that for lack of apps might induce customers to look at alternatives (which opens the door to carrier changes as well as platform), when they have existing cash-cows that are proven?

    WebOS in mobile applications at best will be a niche player. A company the size of HP isn't going to sink hundreds of millions into what will likely remain a niche.

    C'est la guerre.
  • LtRav3nw00d - Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - link

    The CyanogenMod team has shown a video of their Android firmware running on the HP TouchPad, and they are working towards being able to dual-boot Android and WebOS on the TouchPad. http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/08/28/cyanogenmo...

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