About a year and a half ago Hewlett Packard bought Palm for $1.2 billion. The company had big plans for the webOS operating system, and planned to launch phones, tablets, and other products… even printers. Today those plans are largely coming to an end. HP has announced it will discontinue webOS devices including phones and tablets.
The company is still looking for ways to get value from the operating system. That could mean we’ll still see those webOS printers, or perhaps webOS apps that can run on Windows computers. But it’s more likely that HP is hoping to license the operating system to other phone or tablet makers. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen though.
WebOS has always been an interesting platform. Palm and HP had some of the best multitasking and notification systems of any platform. But while Palm was once the leader in the PDA/smartphone space, the company never managed to gain much mindshare after the launch of the Apple iPhone.
While there are hundreds of thousands of third party apps for iOS and Android, and hundreds of millions of people using Android or iOS devices, the numbers for webOS have always been much smaller.
HP recently launched its first webOS tablet, the HP TouchPad. And while it’s one of the few competitors to Apple’s iPad that doesn’t use the Google Android operating system, it hasn’t been selling well and HP has marked down the price several times since the tablet first went on sale at the start of July.
It’s possible that today’s news isn’t a fatal blow to the webOS platform… but at the very least HP’s announcement that it’s discontinuing operations for webOS hardware puts the software ecosystem on life support.