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What will happen to webOS after HP’s exit?

Update: According to The Next Web’s internal sources, HP is NOT going to sell or shut webOS down, just the underperforming hardware device division. HP communicated this in a clumsy way which gave the erroneous impression that webOS was dead or for sale. HP’s plan seems to be to license webOS to hardware partners. But if HP is going to sell their PC division, they can’t force the buyer to promote webOS on the desktop platform. WebOS as a competitor to Windows 8 still seems quite unlikely.

 

My previous blog post about the potential for HP/webOS to expand webOS into the desktop and compete with Windows 8 was only two days old when HP announced their plans to abandon the tablet/smartphone market and their commitment to webOS. I got it wrong. This has been an interesting week in a frantically fast moving industry. Friday is not over so there is still time for another major announcement. How about Microsoft buying Nokia or Dell buying RIM?

I think HP made a rushed and unwise decision. Their Palm smartphones and HP Touchpad tablet didn’t sell, but that was due to clumsy design, weak hardware, and bugs. It was not caused by some inherent weakness in webOS.

If they had persevered, promoted an ecosystem, and licensed webOS I think they would have had a chance on the market. After the Google/Moto deal several of the Android licensees (LG, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, etc.) would probably have been interested in an alternative OS to reduce their dependence of Google.

And as I said in my previous blog post, if and when the HTML5/cloud paradigm becomes dominant, most existing HTML5 web apps will automatically become part of a huge virtual webOS app store inventory.

I haven’t really had time to consider potential webOS buyers. Here are some rough ideas: If HP includes the patent portfolio in the deal they can probably get a better price. Google and Samsung might be interested for hoarding more patents. Other usual suspects would be LG, HTC, Sony Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei. Or possibly China Mobile, Verizon or another large operator. Amazon might be interested in using webOS for a tablet/cloud service offer. Dell, Lenovo, Acer or Asus might want to develop cloud-PC solutions based on webOS to escape Windows 8 and Microsoft’s stranglehold. Perhaps next week’s events and mega deals will provide some answers.

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