When Hewlett-Packard (HP) bought Palm in 2010, it looked like webOS still had a bright future. First developed by Palm on top of a Linux kernel, webOS looked like it could potentially rival Android and even iOS at some point, especially given that HP wanted to put its full marketing power behind it. Today, however, HP announced that, as part of a major reshuffle of its business, it would stop developing webOS devices altogether.
Those webOS devices HP came up with, however, were at best minor successes and at worst, as in the case of the TouchPad tablet, major disasters (even though the hardware really wasn’t that bad). HP was never able to convince developers to release software for the platform and consumers aren’t likely to buy a device that doesn’t feature the right apps.
Here is the language from HP’s press release:
“In addition, HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.”
In the past, HP was rather bullish on webOS. Just a week ago, the company was still talking about taking it beyond the tablet and phone and bring it to cars. HP also planned to bring it to Windows PCs as either a secondary operating system or as a shell on top of Windows.
No More HP webOS Devices
While HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker noted that the TouchPad did fulfill the company’s sales expectations, few expected the company to fully cancel the program altogether. In today’s earning’s call, he also noted that HP sees “too long a ramp-up in the market share” and hence decided to exit the market space as it is “no longer in the best interest of the company and its shareholders.” Interestingly, Apotheker only talked about the tablet business and didn’t address the phone business at all.
Given that HP still hopes to “optimize the value of the webOS software going forward,” there is still some hope that the company will choose to license it to other manufacturers or sell it to a competitor.
It’s hard to imagine who would be interested in the software, though, as virtually all of HP’s competitors already have their open tablet operating systems.