HP Terminates webOS

by Matt Klassen on August 19, 2011

If one company fails to successfully market an intuitive and innovative mobile operating system you might chalk it up to the ineffectual or incompetent management of the company itself; when two companies give up on the same operating system, you start asking questions about the OS.

It was barely two days ago that I wrote a piece covering Hewlett-Packard’s ambitious reinvention of its relatively newly acquired webOS, the mobile OS created and first marketed by the now defunct Palm. The plan, as of two days ago, was to market webOS to non-traditional markets, incorporating the innovative OS into advanced vehicle and home appliance technologies. It looks like that plan has failed in spectacular fashion.

In a move that comes as a surprise to everyone, HP announced yesterday that it is discontinuing its use of webOS, the crown jewel of its Palm acquisition, in all of its current applications—including HP’s new TouchPad tablet and its smartphones—an announcement that effectively means the end of life for the once ambitious webOS.

When Palm’s webOS first hit the scene in 2009 it was touted as a sure-fire iPhone killer. It was lauded by the market as an intuitive and innovative operating system, one destined for greatness; unfortunately what followed was anything but great. Palm, unable to successfully market the webOS, folded up shop last year, acquired in a huge deal by dark horse candidate HP.

For many the HP acquisition meant a second life for the webOS, a mobile resurrection of sorts. It was a chance for webOS to become all that people thought it was going to be under Palm’s control, but yet never had a chance to achieve. In fact, HP’s TouchPad seemed like the perfect technological medium to show off the strengths of the operating system, sporting an interface and a marketing campaign that rivalled anything Apple has delivered.

The problem, like so many past tech failures, is that despite the strengths of webOS, no one cared. Today’s mobile operating system market is simply too competitive for even a strong company like HP to break in, even with an established system like webOS. But does this spell the final end for webOS?

Many webOS supporters remain optimistic, as following the news that HP is scuttling its entire operation the PC giant publicly stating that it was exploring “options to optimize the value of WebOS,” which is simply business babble for “trying desperately to sell it off.”

So the question remains, could another company breathe a third life into webOS? Sorry to say folks, but don’t count on it. WebOS has had more opportunities in the mobile market than most other good ideas, and has still failed to make an impression on consumers.

In the end, what continues to surprise me is just how quickly HP scuttled the webOS, barely giving its marketing campaign enough time to plant seeds of interest among consumers before pulling the plug on the whole operation. But as more and more companies are streamlining themselves to remain competitive, HP had to make some tough decisions, and the death of webOS was one of them.

RIP webOS, we hardly knew ye.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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HP to Decide Fate of webOS — TheTelecomBlog.com
August 17, 2012 at 7:25 am

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John August 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm

It’s always interesting to see just how quickly decisions are made about projects. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in terms of technology and the investment made to it from just a few years ago. Technological evolution is teaching us to speed up the process…of everything.

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