Nick Dillon, Analyst at Ovum
Despite being a capable operating system, WebOS never found the commercial success it might have achieved. There is no denying that HP had struggled to sell the platform to customers, failing to generate either operator or customer interest in the Pre3 or TouchPad devices. Its products lacked a unique selling point and failed to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
However, it does seem somewhat premature to abandon the platform given that HP only acquired Palm a little over a year ago for $1.2 billion. While you could argue that Palm lacked the scale to make the platform a success, the same couldn’t be said of HP. That HP has abandoned the platform so soon after purchasing it illustrates not only how competitive the mobile devices market is, but how quickly it moves. Given HP’s new focus on software and services, mobile devices had become a peripheral part of HP’s business and we can therefore assume that it was unwilling to dedicate the level of investment required to make it a success.
It is unlikely that HP will find any licensees for WebOS, as it offers little benefit over existing platforms in terms of functionality or governance. However, it might make a tempting purchase for a handset maker looking to end its reliance on Google and/or Microsoft, or an adjacent player wanting to expand into mobile. Such companies could include HTC, Facebook or Amazon.
Interestingly HP is making an opposite move from Google – moving out of hardware and into services and software. In doing so HP will no longer be able to control the access to its services, leaving itself at the mercy of other platform and hardware providers, many of whom also have competitive services and software.