Another week, another HP reversal. Or is it?
As the story goes, HP outbid several suitors to pick up Palm and their webOS assets about a year and a half ago for a cool $1.2 billion. It was an interesting corporate maneuver as HP previously had minimal success in the mobile space pitching Microsoft-powered handsets to corporate America and webOS would provide an attractive, modern operating system to a broader audience. In fact, they had dreams of porting the OS to all sorts of devices, including printers and computers. But the Palm team’s sluggish development pace and perhaps uninspired hardware design continued under HP. And, despite promises to the contrary, they launched their iPad tablet competitor with incomplete software… leading to a number of unflattering reviews and lukewarm sales. Fast forward a mere two months, instead of doubling down, HP blows up the enterprise – discontinuing the TouchPad with fire sale pricing and leaving the webOS unit in limbo. Some layoffs began last month and earlier this week The Guardian reported that HP will completely “kill webOS” and lay off the remaning 500 employees in that division. Or will they? One HP exec responds to this “unfounded rumor” via an Engadget transcription that HP continues to evaluate ways to “effectively utilize that phenomenal software.”
So what’s it going to be? HP is clearly a dysfunctional and schizophrenic organization having gone through three CEOs in little more than a year and backtracking on plans to spinoff their PC business. (Keeping it around was the correct move.) After several months in limbo, I believe webOS is dead at HP – despite what execs feed investment television. Given their failure to commit, even more than their failure to execute, webOS surely belongs elsewhere. The question is will anyone offer HP enough cash for them to unload the property? Unfortunately, I’m not feeling hopeful and envision a Cisco-esque Flip flameout.