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WebOS app development chief flees to Xobni

You might have heard that Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) is still trying to sort out what it wants to do long term with its webOS mobile operating system. There’s been rumors of a massive shutdown and talk of salvaging the old Palm-designed OS or selling it off. But it’s clear the uncertainty is not a way to retain talent.

The latest sign is the departure of Michael Rizkalla, the former senior director of webOS application development at HP, who just started at Xobni, where he will be its senior director of mobile applications, according to his LinkedIn profile. Xobni tries to make inboxes and addresses books smarter on Outlook (s msft) and BlackBerry (s rimm) through its software and recently introduced apps for Gmail (s goog) and Android. Rizkalla exit follows the retirement of Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Shane Robinson and the departure of Richard Kerris, vice president, Worldwide Developer Relations for webOS. Palm also saw a number of executives leave after it was bought by HP last year.

The departure of Rizkalla highlights the bigger problem for HP. Even as it debates the future of webOS, the fact that it’s potentially on the chopping block has to be sending plenty of signals to the entire team. HP has already confirmed it would be pursuing layoffs of the webOS team, reported to be more than 500 people. The question is what happens to the rest. Do you wait for HP to shut you down or hope for a reprieve? Why not just take matters into your own hands.

At Palm and HP, Rizkalla was responsible for shipping some of the core apps on webOS and previously led the development of webOS 2.0. Now, it looks like he’ll be heading up engineering for Xobni’s mobile products. How many other talented people leave the webOS team before any decision to keep it or discard it becomes moot?

2 Responses to “WebOS app development chief flees to Xobni”

  1. Probably the biggest news for webOS users to come out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the revelation that just before HP put a halt to webOS, a technology company named OpenMobile was engaged in talks with HP to implement a technology which would allow webOS devices to run Android Apps, and immediately eliminate the app selection shortage which many consider to be the single biggest obstacle to webOS growth.

    This technology, which was demonstrated live at CES, is in an advanced stage of development and only needs tweaks to be ready for deployment. It allows Android apps to run as a card completely inside webOS at 90% – 95% of native speed, and with this technology there is no need to install Android or dual boot!

    Please take the time to sign the petition to let both HP and OpenMobile see how many webOS users want this to happen, and how much it’s worth to us.

    Petition Link: