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WebOS nearing the end of the road

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UPDATED: The end is reportedly nigh for webOS. According to a report by The Guardian, HP (s hpq) is set to kill off its webOS mobile operating system after receiving apparently no interest in the OS it bought from Palm for $1.2 billion.

Quoting inside sources, The Guardian said the webOS group expects to be closed down imminently, affecting 500 jobs. “There’s a 95 percent chance we all get laid off between now and November, and I for one am thinking it’s for the best,” one webOS employee was quoted as saying.

HP had been trying to find a buyer or someone to license the operating system after announcing it was not going to put out anymore webOS hardware. But it has yet to announce any deals though there was speculation that HTC or Amazon (s amzn) might want to buy the operating system. On the most recent earnings call, HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman reversed the company’s move to spin off its PC business, but said the decision on webOS was still a couple of months away. Whitman talked up the potential of using Windows 8 for tablets instead of webOS, which appeared on HP’s TouchPad earlier this year.

We’ll have to wait until the final announcement is made on webOS. But if HP can’t find a buyer, it might be hard to justify keeping the webOS group going. The company said recently that it was still looking at using webOS for printers but it may just give up on the whole venture and write it off.

It’s a shame because webOS was a solid operating system. But perhaps that was its weakness. It was good but didn’t stand out enough in the market. And HP didn’t seem to support it enough. I still remember when I first saw webOS at CES and really thought Palm had a chance with it. It didn’t work out. It’s a sign of how fast things move in this industry.

UPDATE: Tony Prophet, SVP of operations for HP’s PC division told GigaOM today the WebOS discussion is on-going. “It’s a similar process to the one we did with the PC business, and the WebOS is being thoroughly, evaluated including the software and product facets: the whole thing.” So we have to see what Meg and the HP decide finally.

19 Responses to “WebOS nearing the end of the road”

  1. Yogesh Pandeya

    How insane can you be to shut it down if you have so many examples of Open Source successes around. Just make it open source and see how WebOS delivers a few knock out punches.

  2. AppleFUD

    I doubt anyone would buy the OS for the OS. I could see Google wanting Palm’s patents.

    As for how great webOS is. . . I disagree. I had two 32GB TouchPads and they weren’t very good. The hardware was terrible–cracks, screen flex, light bleeding, etc., and HP’s repair was horrible. The OS isn’t intuitive–I tried to teach someone who never used a computer to use one–it was a bloody nightmare. And the OS is flat out slow in every way–runs apps slow, can’t keep up with basic games, JavaScript rendering is ridiculously slow, and multi-tasking is an exercise in futile swiping around the screen–it takes you far more swipes and time to get around the cards than just the two taps it takes in Android or 3 in iOS. webOS’ vaunted multi-tasking is only thought to be great by someone who only used it for a short while or doesn’t really use it at all–it’s slow and cumbersome.

    Now let the fanbois cry. . .

    • You disagree about how great the webOS is, and then you go on and on about hardware issues… Do you understand the difference between hardware and software? Then you say the OS isn’t intuitive to someone who’s never used a computer!? Do you honestly think it would be easier to teach them how to use android or iOS…? It won’t be. As for ‘the OS is flat out slow’, that too is due to hardware. And lastly, I’m a huge multi-tasker and I hate my android because it is not true multi-task, webOs is and I LOVED it! If I could have my Samsung GalaxyS2 with WebOS, I would no doubt.

      • AppleFUD

        Sorry, you are flat out wrong. The OS itself is flat out slow. Notice that after the 3.0.4 update several things were much faster. You could overclock the OS to 1.7GHz and it really didn’t do a whole lot–that’s insane! Needing 1.7GHz+ to make the OS run properly? Seriously?!?!? Come on! That’s the OS, not the hardware. The hardware was/is crap because it falls apart, not because the SoC is slow.

        I’m not a fan of iOS or Android, but I do get that for a complete noob iOS is easier to learn. You may wish that were not true, and I may wish it as well, but that’s just the reality of only having icons (one choice) available and hiding all other options–a noob doesn’t get confused as much. Just type is a great feature but confuses a noob as does the quick launcher dock.

        Thus you have a total POS due to hardware and OS. Try and spin it that it’s only the Hardware, but webOS will still suck if it were 5x faster–it’s just a bad design from beginning to end.

      • OH. . . “true multi-tasking”

        That’s total BS! Three is NO difference between Android’s multi-tasking and webOS–they both allow the developer to decide what runs in the background. Having a static “card” open doesn’t make it “true multi-tasking” by any means whatsoever. Add to that that Android, even when you close an app, brings you right back to the state you left = a lot faster and you don’t have to swipe 5 times to get to an open app. Now, go and run a video in the background on webOS—it will bring the device to it’s knees. OH, wait. You can’t! You have to hack the device to let a video play in the background, and if you do it can’t do anything more. . . it dies.

        Yet, the PlayBook can easily play a 1080P video out while you do other things with a slower SoC–yeah webOS is a “true multi-tasking” machine. Please! You really need to re-evaluate what multi-tasking is because webOS is very very weak at keeping multiple things ACTUALLY going at the same time–their just frozen cards, can’t eve load a web page in the background. Hell, I couldn’t even keep Google Music playing in a separate card and do other things–the OS came to a screeching halt.

        True multi-tasking! Please!!!

    • FUD, you’ve got anger issues and you generalize your experience to be true for everyone else. I’ve used all those OS’s and I love and used anything Apple for for nearly 30years.
      But you know what? I think WebOS is clearly easier to learn. But I’m not ranting and baiting people into arguments because I think people think and solve problems differently.
      In short, just because you “liked” or “disliked” something, does not mean everyone will follow suit.

  3. This is sad, what a shame. I got the launch day Pre on Sprint and had it until last week when I got the IPhone 4S. I long for the intuitiveness of webOS. For all the praise that Apple gets for making things user friendly, I think the 3 year old webOS design is far ahead compared to iOS5. I wish HP had released the Pre3… Oh well. At least I got a touchpad just in time before they disappeared. If true, this decision should go down in history as a prime example of how clueless management killed a great product with promise.

  4. This is too bad, WebOS truly is a great OS. IMHO it’s better than iOS and Android. [shakes head at HP for failing]

    True, the Hardware from palm was horrible, but HP could have fixed that – I was hoping to try the HP Pre3.

    • Dmitry Mizin

      I have bought couple of Pre3’s for kids (one is given, one is still hidden). Verdict is in – my daughter who ate my brains every day with iPhone (when is the evil dad gonna get her one) – once saw the Pre3… What can i say – now she eats my brain when she is going to get her Pre3 present :) Though not sure how it will survive lacking the number of Apps (which is the real killer of this fine OS)

  5. Peter Mullen

    This is sad, indeed. WebOS was not just a ‘solid’ operating system, it still has 2.5 year old design features yet to reach iOS or Android. My hope at this point is that the folks responsible for the elegant and ground-breaking UE/UI design will find meaningful roles in the other companies and correct some of the shortcomings in iOS and Android that still persist to this day.

  6. mikenopolis

    TimC is absolutely right. it is NOT the WebOS software that had problems, it is the HARDWARE that had major issues. I LOVE the intuitiveness of WebOS. I’m still trying to “flick” pages off the screen of my iPad. I used HP’s newest Veer Phone, it’s fun, Quirky and great at multitasking, but trying to slide the phone open usually involves me catching the phone in mid-air as it slips of my hands, should’ve called it HP slippery SOB. The PALM Touchstone inductive charging technology is on of the BEST inventions ever! I was sad to not see it when the iPhone 4S was announced.

  7. No, the problem was the first generation hardware was HORRIBLE. I know many, many people who bought the first pre, but after handset 5, most weren’t willing to stick it out any longer. They all loved the software but couldn’t tolerate hardware that lasted weeks at best.

  8. It is not how good the OS is. It it all about the ecosystem with a good OS. Without a vibrant ecosystem it is worthless. HP alone does not have the will nor management has any clue.