HP has today announced that it will discontinue its operations for webOS devices including the newly released TouchPad and any upcoming webOS phones. The announcement came as a part of the notice that it is purchasing software company Autonomy and spinning off its PC division.
HP is effectively killing off the Pre line of phones as well as the TouchPad tablet with this announcement. Dismal sales of the TouchPad, which BestBuy was reportedly sitting on stockpiles of, most likely contributed to this decision from HP.
HP also reported that it plans to announce that its board of directors has authorized the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG). HP will consider a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.
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.
This announcement leaves the future of webOS devices very much in doubt. The thin quote about continuing to “explore options” doesn’t lend itself to a lot of optimism about the future of webOS right now. But the fact that they comment on it at all leads us to believe that HP may continue to work on webOS itself. HP had initially said that it was “not interested in licensing webOS” and wanted to build devices of its own. That story may change now as HP looks for a way to capitalize on the money it has spent on webOS so far.
If HP were to begin licensing webOS, it might have customers knocking on its doorstep after Google’s announcement of its plans to purchase Motorola Mobility. Samsung and HTC, two of Google’s primary Android partners, would be happy to have an alternative OS like WebOS to license. With Windows Phone, that would make two possible alternatives if Google’s relationship with Motorola got too cozy for their comfort.
Another alternative, should HP decide to end webOS development entirely and not pursue licensing, would be to sell the division outright. Samsung’s Lee Kun-hee has already stated that the company is interested in exploring other software alternatives for the companies mobile devices through investment and acquisitions.
There is also the matter of HPs IP holdings which include many patents that relate to mobile technology. Should it decide to sell those off, it would no doubt attract bidders from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and RIM. All of these companies have been involved in the patent-related acquisition frenzy as of late.
HP purchased Palm in April of 2010 for $1.2 billion and rebranded Palm’s operating system to HP webOS with the release of the Pre 2 in October of 2010. Just under a year later, it has effectively killed off all TouchPad and Palm Pre devices and left the future of webOS in doubt.