HP is officially dead as I know it. The world’s number one PC maker is looking to spin off that part of the business and is killing off its entire webOS platform. (You know, the one HP spent $1.2 billion to acquire a little more than a year ago.) HP trumpeted grand ambitions for the platform, including rolling it out to printers and all PCs starting in 2012. Based on my experience with webOS devices in recent months—especially the lackluster TouchPad—HP made the right call in putting the software out of its misery.
Now that rumors have already started to swirl about potential suitors sweeping up webOS, I have some friendly advice: Don’t do it.
The problem with webOS was not so much the lack of apps—although that was a huge issue—or that the hardware just wasn’t up to snuff. It was the OS itself. Essentially, the webOS name was too apt. Loading applications felt like opening web pages, with too much lag. Both on Pre smartphones and the TouchPad, simply responding to an e-mail felt like a huge effort for the platform. And while HP addressed some bugs with its over-the-air software update for webOS 3.0, I still couldn’t recommend the tablet.
webOS had some things going for it, including the way it handled multitasking and notifications. But it went too far with the whole Activity Card motif. Opening a new tab in the browser became a whole separate window. Why? To show how pretty stacks look on the home screen? But I knew for sure that webOS was not long for this world when a dual-core processor couldn’t speed up the experience. That means there’s something very wrong at a very fundamental level. If the future of mobile computing is about mobile devices and not traditional PCs, nobody’s going to put up with this kind of sluggish experience.
HP says that it will discontinue the TouchPad and webOS phones, a mercy killing that I totally support. The Pre 3 was going to be a bomb, and I just don’t see HP being able to make up for lost ground against iOS and Android. What’s next for webOS? The company claims “it will continue to explore options to optimize the value of the webOS software going forward.” Since HP is discontinuing webOS devices, to me that could only mean one thing: that it’s looking for a buyer or licensees.
Right on cue, Twitter is all abuzz about HTC adding webOS to its portfolio and Samsung scooping up what’s left of Palm to bolster its strength in software. While webOS will probably go for cheap, I would strongly advise any potential suitor to think twice about adopting this platform. Sure, you should try to leverage Palm’s IP and patents—if they come as part of the deal—and even leverage some of webOS’ best interface elements and underlying technologies, such as Synergy.
But webOS was just killed for a reason. And it should stay dead.