With its surprise announcement that it was discontinuing the TouchPad tablet and Pre phones, HP effectively killed webOS device development at the company.  The question now is what the future holds for webOS and the assets of webOS creator Palm.

In a Tweet just minues ago, HP’s VP of Developer Relations Richard Kerris says that licensing, or outright sale, is the route that HP is going to take with webOS.

#HPwebOS is an awesome software platform and now we can explore the best hardware partner for it. #onward.

So it appears that HP is looking to license the webOS platform to a hardware manufacturer that needs it, or it is looking for a hardware maker in need to purchase it outright. If HP were to begin licensing webOS, Samsung and HTC, two of Google’s primary Android partners, could be knocking on its doorstep after Google’s announcement of its plans to purchase Motorola Mobility.

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, so Samsung is on the block for a purchase as well.

Other possibilities for outright purchase of webOS include Amazon or even Google themselves, although these are less likely for a variety of factors. Amazon is most likely already committed to its flavor of Android and Google has other fish to fry with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.

HP’s Leo Apotheker commented on the future of the webOS software and devices saying that “our webOS devices have not gained enough traction with consumers,” and that continuing to offer webOS devices “is no longer in the best interest of HP.” He also said that “transformation can involve difficult decisions.”

On the introduction of webOS after its acquisition, Apotheker said that “we are exploring options to leverage the software in the future,” but stopped short of stating that it is looking for a licensing partner, as Kerris did. He stated that HP would be looking at all of the hardware manufacturers to see if anyone could use webOS and would explore all of the options to ‘extract the best value from webOS’ including licensing, saying that “all outcomes are possible.”

He also stated that HP would shut down hardware manufacturing of webOS devices in Q4.

HP’s Cathy Lesjak said that “about a year ago, we made a bet on webOS. At that time we set clear internal metrics and milestones to measure its success. Our expectation was to establish TouchPad as the clear number two platform in tablets,” she said, adding, “essentially, the TouchPad and webOS phones have not met the financial targets that would make them a success,” adding that HP will be exploring strategic alternatives for webOS.

“WebOS would require significant investments over the next five years,” she said, “generating risk without clear rewards.”

And with that, webOS as the OS of an integrated HP product is dead.