HP considering webOS fire sale

Clearance sale

You sort of knew this was coming: Reuters reports that Hewlett-Packard is looking to unload webOS, the mobile operating system it got when it bought Palm last year, at a huge loss. It has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore the option, according to the report:

Hewlett-Packard Co is evaluating a potential sale of its webOS software platform in a deal that could fetch hundreds of millions of dollars but likely less than the $1.2 billion the company paid for Palm Inc in 2010, said four sources close to the matter.

But wait, there’s more. The company said to be interested? HP’s good friend, Oracle. Yes, the enterprise software company (one that doesn’t make consumer-facing software or devices) and one of HP’s biggest competitors. It’s also the company founded by Larry Ellison, who takes every opportunity that comes along to tweak HP, including hiring as president the CEO that HP sent packing over a sexual harassment claim.

This summer HP decided to stop selling the TouchPad, the device expected to showcase and justify the billion-dollar bet on webOS, a little over a month after it went on sale. The company said at the time it still planned to develop and support the OS, but it was not interested in making the hardware for it. But reports since then indicate the company has been considering a sale.

A lot of really embarrassing things have occurred at HP over the past year-plus. But from Mark Hurd’s expense-report-related indiscretions to Leo Apotheker’s hiring as CEO without meeting with most members of the board, his incredibly short tenure thereafter, and the decision to float the idea of selling the PC division only to take it back a few months later, Tuesday’s news is probably the thing that disappoints mobile tech enthusiasts the most.

But it’s not disappointment in HP as much as it is disappointment in how the company that basically invented mobile computing, Palm, is meeting its end.

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