During the time frame that it took me to write yesterday’s very positive review of the month old HP TouchPad something funny happened. HP put out a press release discontinuing the HP TouchPad and all webOS based devices. From the press release (the bold part was added by myself):
In addition, HP reported that it plans to announce that it 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.
Given the recent announcement that Best Buy is sitting on 200,000 unsold TouchPads this may not come as a surprise to some, but there are may people out there questioning such a quick move. The TouchPad runs webOS, which is a very new offering in the mobile world. It has had great reviews and displays a stunning user interface. As stated yesterday, the TouchPad was intended for the enterprise market and not consumers, so it isn’t that surprising that retail outlets are having difficulty moving them with consumers. This isn’t to say that webOS needs to be enterprise only, but it is most definitely going to need to be available for a while longer before its app store catches up to Apple’s app store or the Android Market.
This does not mean webOS is dead. HP recently made comments indicating that they are looking to include webOS in applications such as printers and cars. HP’s VP has tweeted saying that they are looking for a better hardware partner. This led to speculation that the future of webOS will either be an outright sale, or licensing.
With Google’s recent purchase of Motorola Mobility, there are many people out there speculating that Samsung and HTC may look elsewhere from Android for future products. Samsung’s CEO has already stated that they want to increase their stake on software, possibly through acquisition. I’m sure this was a consideration, but it does not look like this is happening. HP confirmed that they are looking to license webOS, but they have not yet confirmed who they are in talks with. While doing this they announced that there would be staff reductions while hinting that they would need to do work to support additional chipsets (or the licensees would need to update their hardware offerings to support the Qualcomm chipset).
While I am very happy to see webOS live on, I am frankly very worried about the staff reductions (assuming the reductions weren’t just in marketing/advertisement as that can be left to the licensees). I understand that they recently lost a lot of money on the TouchPad and I am never in favor of keeping people on the payroll when work does not exist, but I also believe that forcing additional work on limited resources over time will diminish productivity. Not only could productivity suffer, but this can cause your hard working employees to flee elsewhere which means increased costs for training new employees and decreased productivity as the new person catches up to speed.
I truly hope that this does not happen with webOS. I personally am a huge fan of Android and was already starting to favor webOS over iOS (and maybe even passing my interest in Android) just based off of limited interaction with the system. I wish the webOS team the absolute best, and I hope to see more from them.