HP dropped a bomb today, announcing that the company will discontinue WebOS Devices including the TouchPad and WebOS mobile devices.
The news comes right ahead of the HP earnings call and after numerous HP TouchPad price cuts and reports of unsold stock taking up too much shelf space at Best Buy.
It’s a bit surprising to see HP cutting off support for WebOS so soon after launching the TouchPad, and relatively shortly after spending $1.2 Billion in april 2010 to pick up Palm.
HP quickly said that the company would double down on WebOS, but failed to capitalize on the growth of mobile devices. HP is also having a tough time in the PC business and has announced that it will explore options regarding the personal computer business.
WebOS isn’t Done Yet
While HP has effectively killed off WebOS in HP products, the company hasn’t closed up shop and put WebOS in the dumpster out back. Like any recent buyer, the company is exploring options to recover some of the $1.2 Billion investment.
In a release announcing the news, HP stated that, “HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of WebOS software going forward.”
Essentially, WebOS isn’t dead, but it needs to be sold or licensed to manufacturers the way Google’s Android operating system is.
Because HP paid so much licensing may be their best bet, but an outright sale makes more sense for the potential buyers — if the price is right.
Who Should Buy WebOS?
RIM - Research in Motion is already in the process of switching over to the QNX operating system for upcoming BlackBerry smartphones, but the company is still hasn’t seen big sales of the QNX powered PlayBook tablet.
While WebOS doesn’t have a killer track record, if RIM can get past the company’s inability to capitalize on opportunities WebOS could make a good fit for the company.
HTC - HTC is probably the most likely buyer if HP were to put WebOS up for sale. Given Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility, HTC may be wary of the future of the Android platform for licensing companies.
HTC makes killer hardware, and could pair this with WebOS to deliver a smattering of WebOS phones and tablets. There would be a delay between purchase and delivery, but I believe HTC could make magic happen with WebOS. across mobile platforms.
Samsung - Another potential suitor would be Samsung. The South Korean company is also known for making some top-notch Android smartphones, and was left out in the cold with Google’s Motorola Purchase.
Samsung is already putting more effort into the Bada operating system, which it hopes to load on smartphones as well as feature phones. If the company picked up WebOS, it would have a more mature operating system on hand to tailor to the hardware.
Why Buy WebOS
The real reason why one of these companies should be interested in picking up WebOS is to compete with Apple by owning the software and the hardware that make up a mobile product. When running Android, both Samsung and HTC have to deal with the wait for Google to deliver features and updates. By bringing the OS in-house and marrying it to the hardware there is a higher potential for great things.
When it comes down to it, HTC makes the most sense as a suitor, with Samsung in second. RIM could benefit from the deal, but management there doesn’t seem capable of making a big decision like this without messing it up.
HTC has an estimated $3-5 billion in cash, which means if HP were looking to sell WebOS, the company could afford to buy.