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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  • Xebec01 - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    I got a Pre on launch day. I love WebOS. When the phone eventually died, I switched to Android. I like Android because I can do a lot with it, but I don't like the menu upon menu upon menu structure that the OS seems built around. WebOS was elegant and got the job done at the same time.

    I got an HP touchpad 13 days ago, and it's in the box to go back to Staples in the morning. If HP was going to support it, I would have stayed on board. But it has too many bugs and quirks at the moment to risk it.

    Besides, if I regret it, I can always buy another one. I'm sure they'll be dirt cheap in a few weeks.

    Sad day, though. The homebrew community was fantastic. HP/Palm just never put out a device or an OS that felt....finished.

    -X
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Agreed.... I'm sad to see Palm get sucked into HP and then.... killed.

    Palm/WebOS has very little value now.

    Here are the sales of the TouchPad and we can see WHY HP killed it:

    As of August 16, Best Buy had only sold 25,000 of 270,000.
    In Europe... 12,000.

    We can guess that HP built about 400,000~500,000 devices... that is a painful OUCH!
    Reply
  • zachj - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    With all the time spent by this site speculating about patent wars between the major players of cell phones, I'm surprised you didn't speculate as to the possibility that Microsoft, Apple or Google would buy it.

    For the patent portfolio that comes with it.

    Zach
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Google could make the most use of it, but overall - Android needs an overhaul in the GUI department. I'm sure if they offered HP $500M for it, HP would bite.

    Apple wouldn't touch it... they don't need it.
    Microsoft, doesn't need it. WP7 (WPOS) is solid and there is nothing in WebOS that would enhance it.

    Samsung = They'll stick with Android... supporting two OS devices would confuse customers, add costs.

    ASUS = Not enough $$$ and not a major enough player for it to make a difference in sales. To most people, "Who is ASUS?"

    HTC = They are fine where they are with Android and WP7 devices. They are a hardware company.

    Intel = Maybe... but for what? They don't really sell consumer products (self contained systems) and are busy with what they do already. Meego (which is good) is pretty much... dead when Nokia dropped it for WP7. Why would Intel want another MobileOS, they already have on that is starting to collect dust.

    RIM = Now, *THEY* could have done something... I don't know if they made a bid for Palm back then in early 2010. HP, being the huge beast of a company - spent a lot of time with WebOS and then burned current WebOS device users.

    I think RIM could have quickly re-released WebOS onto their devices (like by now) - rather than still converting QNX to work with phones. The quality of the Playbook with WebOS would have been more exciting... a mobileOS, ready to go. But that's in the past and RIM is locked in with their QNX OS.
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, August 20, 2011 - link

    Actually QNX has driven phones for years, both baseband and application side. It isn't that WebOS had a strong SDK ready to go. MeeGo is much more mature on that side and they don't even have mass market products on it. If companies want a new Linux route that should be more interesting.

    WebOS can only really work when someone is actually doing it as a integrated product where hardware and form factor has developed together with the OS to deliver their somewhat unique experience.

    RIM was already invested in QNX Software Systems (just) before Palm was sold, and I don't really think they choose between them two. QNX is also different as it isn't a company you just can merge and dissolve into your own business virtually killing it, it is like Intel's own Wind River Vxworks. Both still run like separate companies. As is required in their markets.

    WebOS might had a mobile UI but it wasn't really a mobile OS. Not ready to go and take over the world. It won't work in a company and won't be sold for that matter, that has competing solutions. It would simply be killed if Intel took it over. Nobody that is successful on Android would have any reason to buy it either.

    Asus is btw far larger then HTC and Acer on a whole. Don't make them a good match though. Maybe some company like Fujtisu would have been a better match. But the product will silently live on in HP for years any how. Toshiba could surely benefit from picking it up to run on their products though. As they need to differentiate themselves and haven't been successful on Tablets, but they have sold their phone business, though still own kyocera also which wasn't sold off.
    Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    For the most part... WebOS is dead. Reply
  • Belard - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Owning an iPad1 and comparing it to the HP TouchPad – I already gave my opinion about how HP royally screwed up.

    1 – Typical HP cheap look and feel design. Cheap and horrible feeling glossy plastic.
    2 – Runs a bit slow on the hardware (software not optimized?) – rotation was awkward or didn’t happen.
    3 – Control Panel was horrible, works like a desktop and multi-tasked.
    4 – HP promoted it as a business product – while NOT and yet priced the same as an iPad.
    (So why not just get an iPad?)
    5 – HP’s marketing company putting up FAKE reviews on websites didn’t help.

    Its multi-tasking, and overall look (much of it looked like iOS) was pretty good. The 4:3 iPad like screen type was a good move. What would have been GREAT is a Samsung quality tablet with WebOS and a desire to make and support the product. A month after launch and HP pulls the plug?

    There were other general problems with HP and other tablets in general.

    Apple is able to provide a very solid package of Hardware, software, apps, media, books and support. We all know that iOS will be hear for years. Pretty much all quality tablets costs about $500… and none of them equal to an iPad.

    I own a Samsung Android phone… Its fine for a computer techie like myself, but overall – its CRAP for most people. Try doing updates with Samsungs crappy (nice word) KIES software. Where is the sync software? Where is the working update software? Geez, I had to install Kies onto an old old HP notebook with WindowsXP in order to update my Samsung to Froyo!
    Froyo… while it fixed GPS and has some enhancements, it still does things more difficult than they should be. If Google wants to make Android better, they need to develop the software to talk to the hardware from the Windows and Apple side… their own version of iTunes.

    This is what APPLE does NOT DO. Yes, they cater to the computer novice… but guess what, stupid PC users are no better than stupid Mac users. Most people are NOT computer savvy and never will. I don’t like iTunes, but it does work very good for most people, I can see that.

    When the iPad2 is a solid product on the market, *IT* is difficult for anyone to compete. Android will do well in numbers alone… any competitor has to EQUAL an iPad – perhaps MS has a good chance, but they are not positioning the WP7/8 for tablets. They are counting on Windows8 to run on future hardware. There are good and bad things about this… the hardware requirements for a full blown OS vs. a mobile OS will effect pricing.

    WebOS, like the Amiga – is being passed around from owner to owner. Its an EXCELLENT product… some tweaks can make it perfect. But HP is a STUPID company without the talent or balls to actually innovate. The printing business is dying, cheap PCs are a dime a dozen. Apple, Lenovo, HP, Dell, etc… coming out of Foxconn. Gateway – PackardBell – Emachines – Acer, now a single company (owned by Acer). HP is spending a lot of energy to be #1 PC maker… and if they left the PC market, nobody will really care?

    Who loves their HP computer? Nobody. Same as Gateway and others. Some people still love Dells for some reason. ThinkPads are about the only PCs that are loved by their owners like those who love Apple products.

    Why all this rambling…? It’s all these factors that makes it difficult to be successful in a market that Apple created. Yeah, MS had made a tablet version of XP… which failed. Its only useful in a few markets… they were always expensive as they are today. I don’t even like Apple, nor MS all that much. The law-suits, counter law-suits, back stabbing, stealing, etc… is just business.

    The tablet market will only support two, maybe three major players. We know that Apple’s iOS and Android (now with a solid patent portfolio) aren’t going anywhere. QNX-RIM doesn’t have the “YEAH” factor. WebOS is effectively dead… unless Samsung wants it, but would confuse the customers on what to buy, so NO = not going to happen.

    That leaves MS’s WPOS (which sounds better than WP7, etc – never mind the pun) – which has very little market share, but its an excellent and original OS and MS has the money and foresight for the long haul. MS *SHOULD* buy Nokia… it’s the best bet for the survival of WPOS and Nokia… and they SHOULD make a WPOS tablet.

    When someone (Client, friend, business, personal) asks me about tablet, I’d go with iPad… then Samsung or Asus Transformer if they want to deal with Android and Android problems.

    PS: I do feel bad for the developers, techs, creators and customers who love WebOS, MeeGo and even Symbian. But when you spend many years in the technology business – you know when the writing on the wall says an OS platform is dead. I honestly loved my Amiga computers… It took MS about 20 years to make Windows7, an enjoyable OS – to compare.
    Reply
  • Belard - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Reading about the sales of the Touchpad:

    As of August 16, 2011, Best Buy had only sold 25,000 out of 270,000 in inventory.
    Hmm... bet HP is going to be buying those back.

    In Europe, only about 12,000 have been sold!

    I'm guessing HP Ordered about 500,000 TouchPads. Spent $100 million on advertising alone (I'm guessing). I've seen the ads with a singer and a boxer. HP is no APPLE in marketing.

    Sales have been winding down... hey, this would happen if HP re-released Amiga computers. About 20,000 die hards would buy it. :(

    Meanwhile... ASUS is selling out of Transformers at about 200,000+ a month. I'd buy a Transformer before buying a TouchPad. Its $100 cheaper and more thought went into the design. Samsung is selling about what... 500,000+ units a month?
    Blackberry Playbook is shipping about 200,000 units a month.

    Needless to say, HP knew they were royally screwed with about 35,000 unit sales.

    Apple is still pumping out about 2 million iPads a month.

    I'm not sure how MS is going to compete with that once Windows8 with Tablet support hits the market in late 2012. No matter what, its bloated and overkill for a mobile playback device. But who knows... maybe IT WILL WORK.
    Reply
  • Mugur - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Maybe I'm only dreaming, but wouldn't be nice if Windows 8 for ARM will be compatible with current Tegra 2 Android tablets? :-)

    I wonder how many would switch...
    Reply
  • sviola - Monday, August 22, 2011 - link

    "I'm not sure how MS is going to compete with that once Windows8 with Tablet support hits the market in late 2012. No matter what, its bloated and overkill for a mobile playback device. But who knows... maybe IT WILL WORK."

    Windows 8 is not even out and you're already saying it is bloated?
    Reply

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