Chris J Powell

WebOS is Dead

I was quite surprised by the HP announcement that the TouchPad and all WebOS devices are being discontinued.  This was a bit of a surprise to me as I was truly investigating the option of the Pre3 as my next phone but I could not identify the actual release date of it.

Having played with the TouchPad in more than one store I was quite impressed with its performance but after a poor first 49 days on the market the TouchPad has gone the way of the Microsoft Kin and other well thought designs.

 

In a Press Release centered around the restructuring of HP to focus more on its high margin product centers HP stated:

 

HP will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. The devices have not met internal milestones and financial targets. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.

 

The long history of Palm now appears to be completely gone, the original PDA will likely never resurface in any level of its former glory but I was able to locate an interesting article from TechCrunch that lays out an interesting path for HP to remain competitive with Google and Apple:

 

  • 1) Open webOS:Share webOS’ source code. Bits of webOS are already available under a GPL license, but it’s time to open the rest as much as possible. Perhaps not with everyone — at least not at first, as suddenly sharing a mountain of once-closed source would be a great way to totally bone all of the existing, unlikely-to-be-updated webOS devices currently floating around out there
  • 2) Give It Away. For free. But only to those willing to help make it better:With Android’s popularity and free-except-for-patent-licensing price tag and Windows Phone 7 floating around as an alternative, webOS licenses would be a rather hard sell. That’s why HP needs to just give it away — but only to those willing to improve it. webOS is, in many ways, kind of amazing. It’s ridiculously user-friendly, the notifications/alerts system is top notch, and it’s undeniably one of the most beautiful operating systems ever created… but it has its faults. Among other things, it doesn’t seem to be terribly efficient; even Palm could never seem to make a device on which webOS ran better than a 4-year old with bricks tied to his feet. Furthermore, Palm just could neverallot the resources to properly build out webOS for third-party development; it lacks much in the pre-provided functionality front (read: APIs), and that which is there could really do with better documentation.And that’s where the trade comes in. Willing to make substantial improvements to webOS? You get a webOS! And you get a webOS! And you get a webOS! Not willing (or don’t have the man-power) to commit to improvements? No sweat — you can still license webOS on the cheap.

    The definition of “substantial improvements” as well as the definition of “cheap” would have to vary based on company size/revenue, but anything is better than HP trying to tackle webOS alone. Palm’s best engineers took off when the buyout went down, and HP has never proven themselves capable at making software.

  • 3) Promise to never set foot in the smartphone/tablet arena again:This part is key. Be the hands-off, no-competition software provider that Google has decided they don’t want to be anymore. Throw webOS into printers, cars, toasters, whatever, but just let the guys who know what they’re doing in mobile do their thing.
  • 4) Form a foundation to guide the overall product:More cooks in the kitchen can just make things worse — and that’s why there needs to be a foundation of sorts (separate from HP) formed amongst the largest contributors to act as a guiding hand for the product’s future. Major contributors get to discuss and steer the future of the product. And if one wants to do build something into the project that the majority veto? No problem — they’ll just have to build it into their own branch. Think of it sort of like Nokia (et al.)’s Symbian foundation, minus the suck.

 

I would have to agree with the author Greg Kumparak in many of his assumptions and ideas especially the idea of licensing it to the Samsung’s, HTC’s and LG’s to provide them with the option to counter the Googorola behemoth that was announced earlier this week.  One thing that I can see as a potential for WebOS is a possible merger with RIM, would or could that save the ailing Canadian Tech Giant?

 

The 2nd half of 2012 is going to be an interesting time, especially considering in the same press release HP announced that it is looking to spin off its PC division much the way IBM did with the move over to Lenovo back in 2004.

 

Well the Weekend is almost here.  Can’t wait for some down time!

 

Chris J Powell

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