Hewlett-Packard gives up on webOS

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Well, that was quick. Just months after introducing what looked to be one of the most promising challengers to the iPad, Hewlett-Packard said it is getting out of the webOS business and discontinuing its Touchpad and webOS phones. The company is now looking to “optimize” the value of webOS, which could mean a sale of the operating system, licensing it to other manufacturers or just very specific uses of the platform in devices like printers.

It’s a big turnaround for HP, which also announced that it was looking at spinning off its huge PC business. It sounds like HP is in search of profitability and has lost patience with webOS. It’s a shame because I and many others have also been enamored with the platform, which just never seemed to get enough support. Now, it appears HP will sit on webOS and see what it wants to do next.

Just recently, HP was reportedly open to licensing the platform. There was hope that it might, with the right momentum, become a possible third-place challenger in the mobile wars. But the webOS phones haven’t caught on, and the TouchPad has gone through a number of price drops, which hasn’t instilled much confidence and suggested sales were meager.

It sounds like this is part of a bigger movement by HP to just distance itself from devices, not unlike what Cisco did with its Flip cameras. Ciscobought up Pure Digital Technologies’ Flip business only to kill it when it didn’t fit into its more back-to-basics focus. HP still gets value out of its $1.2 billion purchase of webOS maker Palm in the form of mobile patents, which are now worth a premium these days. But it’s a shame that webOS does not seem like it will be given a chance to be a contender in the mobile market.

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