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Report: HP may license webOS elsewhere

updated 09:45 pm EDT, Thu August 18, 2011

No clear exit strategy as HP kills product line

On the heels of today's announcement that HP was discontinuing tablet and smartphone products featuring WebOS, a report from ThisIsMyNext claims to have confirmation from an internal company meeting that HP remains committed to the platform as an IP asset, but doesn't yet know what to do with it and is considering scouting new hardware partners or companies willing to license the iOS competitor.

WebOS Global Business Unit Vice President Stephen DeWitt was quoted as reiterating -- several times during the meeting -- that HP will not "walk away" from WebOS, but also admitted that a plan for determining what the platform's future would look like was not complete and that "we don't have all the answers today," while saying that the company should have a clearer vision for it within the next two weeks. He added that there would be staff reductions in the WebOS team, but indicated that development of the OS will continue -- if the company can find enough talent that is "serious about winning."

Former WebOS head (and former Apple executive) Jon Rubinstein, who had been CEO of Palm before it was acquired by HP, was moved out of software and into hardware design by the company last month. The report made no mention of him being in attendance at the meeting.

Both DeWitt and HP Vice President Todd Bradley admitted that the reason WebOS hadn't done well in the marketplace was due more to mediocre hardware than the software. The men were quoted as saying that HP needed to stop "trying to force non-competitive products into the market," perhaps referring to HP's additions to the glut of iPhone and iPad imitators already in competition with HP.

While WebOS has generally won much critical praise as a solid competitor to Apple's iOS, the dominance of Google's more-derivative Android platform left HP with products that couldn't distinguish themselves from the pack and were seen as outside the two main operating systems for mobile devices.

Asked directly about licensing the OS to other manufacturers such as HTC or Samsung, Bradley noted that WebOS is currently limited to running on only Qualcomm chips, a situation that would have to change in order for HP to be able to offer it for wide-scale licensing. He didn't mention any solid plans to do that, or any other potential clients for the OS. Given the current climate in the mobile markets, the potential for a large-scale licensing arrangement seems remote, with most handset makers committed to Android or other OSes like Windows Phone 7.

How HP plans to handle the WebOS unit remains unclear, as it is looking to spin off the Personal Systems Group of which the WebOS GBU is a part. The impression gained from the report is that HP continues to consider WebOS a valuable asset, but can't make it work well enough with the company's own hardware.

Whether HP will be able to find a partner that can marry the quality of WebOS to matching hardware to carve a significant niche in the smartphone and tablet arenas remains to be seen. [via ThisIsMyNext]

by MacNN Staff



  1. coffeetime

    Joined: Dec 1969



    seems to be a good candidate to buy/license WebOS (a suicide attempt). At this point, I don't know if any company is willing to take any risk to challenge Apple on the tablet. How's Google's ChromeOS going? Maybe Google+Moto tablet will work..... but which OS? Can't believe Apple simply dominates the world with just iPhone and iPad..... not the Mac. No one see that coming. I still have my humble Apple Performa 6400 at home that the critics laughed at.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The Mac...

    It's on the way out.

    Apple's idea for it's successor is some "appliance" computer with an iOS variant and a multi-touch trackpad.

    You will be forced to jailbreack the device just to purchase anything outside of the app store.

    A bleak future for pro users but good enough for the masses.

    Most likely will be extremely successful.

  1. coffeetime

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: The Mac...

    I doubt the Mac is on its way out. I heard that millions of times since the dawn of time. It's the Mac that contribute the success of iOS after all. Apple is not like HP and others whom ditch everything the next day when things not going well. Personally I enjoy being the small percentage as a Mac user because I don't have to worry about hacking and virus. So much productive using Mac vs. PC (Dell help menu updating, Windows updating, Virus updating, the hard drive is constant in motion for unknown can anyone get their works done?)

  1. rvhernandez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Jon Rubinstein?

    Do you think he's tried using an iPhone by now?

  1. 11211

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No sale

    No one wants WebOS, it's unfinished, laggy and HP was in the middle of rewriting much of it from scratch. They couldn't stomach the cost of rewriting it, developing dozens of apps, and marketing the devices, so they cut their losses. I think they decided this a few months ago and waited to announce it till today with the split of the company.

    Maybe a Chinese company will bid on it, or some companies may bid on the IP, but that's all.

  1. FreeRange

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Jon Rubinstein clearly isn't the executive material everyone thought he was. Palm under his leadership was a complete fail - poor hardware execution and failure with the develoent community, and horrible exection of a tablet at HP. Oh, but he worked at Apple! Pathetic.

  1. BigMac2

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Overrated

    I don't like much Jon Rubinstein either, but you got to acknowledge his past realization at Apple and NeXT, after all, he is the iPod father. Problems with the TouchPad is less Rubinstein failure to execute but more on how an engineer corp would take any Rubinstein's idea and come with the easiest and cheapest way to execute. HP engineering philosophy can't match Apple design philosophy where Steve Jobs would not accept design compromise dictated by his engineer. HP never really had consumer appeal product and now with their recent acquisition and PC division departure, HP send a strong signal they want to left consumer market completely and focus back on its corp business.

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