Oh nooo. That was the first thought that crossed my mind as I began to read Jon Zilber’s post on HP’s company blog. Quoting Mark Twain? Oh no he didn’t. In a nutshell, Zilber’s intent was to correct the world’s press, which collectively played Taps while standing over webOS’s grave this past week. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports about the demise of webOS have been off the mark,” Zilber wrote. “HP has made these tough decisions to ensure that our efforts with webOS remain tightly focused. Far from burying webOS, our goal is to ensure the platform’s evolution as a robust operating system for an increasingly mobile and connected world.” OK, time to set the record straight. Read on for more.
We did not misunderstand HP’s comments when it drove the knife into webOS’s back. We were all on the earnings call from start to finish, trying figure out whether to laugh or cry as the knife was repeatedly twisted. We heard HP’s plan, or lack thereof, and we read the company loud and clear.
WebOS is dead.
The beauty of the tech world, however, is that ghosts are real. Just ask Apple. HP has murdered webOS, make no mistake about it. But now that its body has been lowered into the earth and covered with six feet of unsold TouchPads, HP will embark on a new journey in an attempt to resurrect it. Truth be told, though, I believe these efforts will be short-lived.
Who will license HP’s webOS in the current mobile landscape? And why? WebOS couldn’t break into the market with the world’s No. 1 PC vendor, millions of dollars, teams of bright minds and a massive ad campaign behind it. What company will try its hand with the OS after that colossal failure? What developer will stick around and wait, betting on some other significant player to come make a massive investment in a platform that not even HP’s millions could sell to consumers?
If HP gave up on webOS devices after just 16 months, I don’t see how the company can expect any other major player to even consider taking the platform seriously.
Unless a company with the capability to truly resurrect the OS comes along and licenses it, yes, webOS is dead. But who might come to the rescue? Android is free — sort of — and it’s ripping through the market right now. Big boys like Samsung and HTC have made massive investments in Google’s mobile platform, and they already have Windows Phone as a solid No. 2.
So who else is there? ZTE, Huawei and other companies that fall into the “others” category on market share charts? Why bother; Android is free and these vendors are actually doing pretty well with the platform right now. Dell? No, Dell is too busy laughing at HP. Motorola? Yeah, probably not. Nokia? That ship has sailed. RIM? It’s not going to happen. RIM is investing tons of resources in QNX and you know what? QNX is a pretty great platform. With RIM’s history and carrier relationships alongside support for the Android app ecosystem, I think RIM likes its chance right now. Truth be told, I like them too.
Who does that leave? Maybe HP will finally toss webOS onto printers. Maybe Kenmore will stuff webOS into a few smart refrigerators or toasters — though with Android out there as a free and open option, I’m not sure what the appeal would be.
My unsolicited advice, HP: shut up and take your shots. You spent $1.2 billion on Palm 16 months ago, and you’ve already given up on selling webOS devices. To make matters worse, you’re now financing a fire sale on TouchPads and further tarnishing your brand in an attempt to shove dead-end devices into consumers’ hands just so you get some nominal return. Shame on you.
So now, you’re going to get ripped up over it. Deal with it.
If some company comes along to license webOS for huge money and then uses the platform to revolutionize the deli meat slicer industry, fine, we’ll all eat crow. I’ll eat crow with a giant smile on my face, I might add, because I’ve always been a huge fan of webOS. Until then, however, sit back and take your shots like a multi-billion dollar corporation that just screwed the pooch should.