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HP Should Open Source webOS, But Won’t

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on August 18, 2011 · 0 comments

in Mobile Computing

HP WebOS TouchPad
A little over a month ago, we read a press release from HP announcing they were going to “Drive Innovation, Scale and Growth of webOS”:

“As part of our investment in the future of webOS, we are working in lock step with the developer community, our channel partners and the start-up community to create an application ecosystem that delivers on HP’s mobile connectivity strategy.” — HP, a month ago

Today, they announced they “will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.”

Last month, they repositioned Jon Rubinstein and replaced him with Stephen DeWitt. Rubinstein said that he was looking forward to his new role “with webOS under Stephen DeWitt’s proven leadership”.

Excuse me while I clean up the coffee I just spit all over the place.

To HP’s defense, they say their killing off the physical products and not necessarily webOS itself. The sad truth is, though, HP is where good ideas go to die.

Remember the iPaq? And the Pre? Add the TouchPad to that list. It might not have been so bad had HP not rushed out a product that wasn’t ready, just to be able to have a product in that market. Who knows?

To me, this seems like a bad decision by Apotheker, who doesn’t seem like he’s the right guy for the CEO spot at HP. To use an analogy I heard elsewhere, he seems to be doing what a lot of new coaches do to their sports teams: changing all the players around to fit their idea of the team, instead of the coach adapting his plan to the team. They struggle during the “turnaround” for a while and then the cycle repeats with a new coach. This has been going on at HP for a while.

Apotheker is trying to make HP the next SAP. It won’t work. In the meantime, however, expect a lot more shake-ups at HP that leave you scratching your head and wondering “WTF?”.

The good thing to come out of this, if there is one, is that they haven’t necessarily killed off webOS itself, just the devices.  There are some options here. They could go back to Microsoft and Windows. Perhaps Google will attempt to get them to use Android.

Another option would be to open source webOS. Offer it up to the open source community to develop and nurture and then watch it grow.

With 90% of Best Buy’s TouchPad’s still sitting on the shelves, maybe that’s the boost that it needs. I can’t commit to it, but it’s quite possible I’d buy one if webOS were open-sourced.

HP won’t do that, though. Why not? A move like that from Apotheker, who just paid $1.2 billion to acquire the whole thing? Yeah, not gonna happen. He’s too worried about wasting another $10 billion on Autonomy (which is way overpriced, by the way).

If anything, HP will sell off webOS for the patents, since that seems to be where the money is. No one seems to care about actually delivering a great product anymore (which HP had the potential to do), it’s all about the patents.

Remember, HP is where good products go to die.

UPDATE: Check out the “exclusive details from inside” on this post, which quotes Stephen DeWitt as saying “We are not walking away from webOS.”

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