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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  • sciwizam - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Samsung might buy the PC division, but not sure about the WebOS part.
  • sviola - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Well, I think Samsung would be the best fitted for using webOS. It would protect them from Apple patent trolling and give them a great OS that would proof them against the Google-Motorola fusion.
  • NCM - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with what the term "patent trolling" actually means before bandying it about.
  • sviola - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    When one's patents is as broad as square black device, round edged icons in a grid on a mobile device, I consider them to be abusing the patent process and thus I consider them a patent troll, eventough I know it refers to companies that don't do squat with their patents beside suing others who does.
  • Samus - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    You don't seem to understand. Samsung doesn't need patents. Google is the one that needs to protect the Android platform (face it, thats why Samsung is being attacked by Apple) and they are with the Motorola deal.

    All the rounded edges and similar colors in the world won't hold up in court. Apple knows that, which is why they had to Photoshop the 'Exibit B.'

    Samsung entering the PC business is possible (and welcome), but I don't see them buying WebOS. Unfortunately the platform didn't make it far enough to mature around more consumer market devices like TV's and appliances. Samsung could make that happen, especially since their Web TV's suck it. I own an D6500, and everything about it from the Apps to Netflix is far inferior to my HTPC. But the cost outweighs the benifits. They could use Android for free, and its ready now.

    This was always a three-way ecosystem. iOS, WP7 and Android. Symbian, Meego and WebOS (the later two of which are totally competitive) just can't get a break.
  • sviola - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Well, when I said Samsung could use the patents, it was because Apple is suing Samsung, not Google. And, so far, Google has backed their OEM with nothing, but that might change with the Motorola acquisition.

    As for the rest of your post, I agree that Samsung could be interested in the PC division (although, they do have a notebook division of their own, and may have a PC division in Asia I'm not familiar with), as for the WebOS thing, they won't buy it, because HP won't sell it. They'll use it as the OS for the printers (and maybe will license it for other home appliances or even cars, like MS has windows running in MyFord).
  • PeteH - Saturday, August 20, 2011 - link

    I don't think the Motorola acquisition will change anything with respect to patent litigation. After all, Apple and Microsoft are both currently suing Motorola, so Motorola's patents don't seem to be serving as an effective deterrent.
  • steven75 - Friday, August 19, 2011 - link

    Then maybe you should learn the difference between "trade dress" and "patents".
  • vision33r - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    That's if Samsung exits Android and uses WebOS which looks nothing like iOS. I don't think Samsung would acquire WebOS. They are a hardware only company that relies on software vendors like Microsoft to give them expertise. They want no part in software.

    As for Patent trolls, Apple would actually be the last company to be considered one.

    They've been sued more than they've sued. It's important to sue Samsung because they are the one Android device maker that uses the shell that resembles iOS the most.
  • sviola - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Well, they actually do have a in-house OS called Bada. And they do software interface for android as well, so I don't think they would have much trouble with WebOS, specially because buying it would probably include the division and engineers on the it.

    As for the patent troll, I know what it means, but Apple has some broad patents that it is using to bully Samsung out of the market. So, I consider them to be acting as a troll.

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