HP Needs to Be in the Hardware Business to Get Their WebOS Software Adoption Up
HP acquired smartphone manufacturer Palm back in late April, 2010, for about $1.2 billion For some reason, HP did not try to fully integrate Palm into itself, but decided to rely on the vision of Jon Rubinstein, one of the inventors of Apple's iPod and another legendary man from the Valley, and leave Palm as a separate business unit without merging it with PSG. Mr. Rubinstein wanted to create a highly-competitive lineup of smartphones, media tablets and netbooks (and not only!) based on webOS, which was developed by Palm. While HP's Palm unit has succeeded in releasing new smartphones and TouchPad tablets powered by webOS 1.4.5/3.0.2 operating systems, HP decided to discontinue hardware operations of Palm less than two months after TouchPad was launched citing insufficient demand.
X-bit labs: You were a big fan of webOS despite of Palm's rather slow performance with smartphones (compared to Apple iOS and Google Android). What made you this optimistic?
Rahul Sood: WebOS is a beautiful piece of software that no one knows about. What made me optimistic was the vision that Jon Rubenstein originally had for the platform combined with the scale that HP could have brought to the table.
I now believe Windows Phone 7 is the best mobile operating environment out there, it will take some time for people to see that. It’s truly a pleasure to use, and with more apps arriving daily, and new beautiful hardware around the corner, I haven’t looked back.
X-bit labs: HP has essentially abandoned the webOS platform. Do you think that it happened because they do not know what to do with the PSG in general, or because they were not impressed by sales or feature-set of the latest breed of devices amid inevitable next-gen Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, etc.?
Rahul Sood: Not true, HP hasn’t abandoned the webOS platform. The unfortunate part is their communication has been nothing short of horrendous. There is a business case in the making here – PR schools from all over the world should read what happened to Hewlett-Packard the day they announce they were getting out of the PC business, they were spending 10 billion dollars to acquire a company that “no one” knows, and they were cancelling a hardware business they only started 58 days prior.
This is PR gone wrong 101: When shit hits the fan.
I have no idea what will happen to webOS now. I would certainly encourage developers to look to other platforms to expand their footprint.
X-bit labs: Can webOS be successfully licensed by other smartphone/tablet vendors and become a rival for Android and iOS?
Rahul Sood: Perhaps. Though personally I think HP needs to be in the hardware business to get their software adoption up. I also believe the only way someone will license webOS is if there’s something in it for them. Perhaps HP should have licensed webOS for free the month after they bought Palm - they could have supplemented the business with their own hardware sales. It may have made a pretty large impact by now.