Print 9 comment(s) - last by vcolon.. on Nov 9 at 9:00 PM

WebOS fans left hoping that bungling HP might leave webOS in kinder hands

Given its haphazard and half-hearted approach to trying to market webOS mobile devices, many fans of the platform wish that Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) had never acquired Palm.  But with the last of the pro-webOS executives departing from HP's ranks [1][2] and the staff of the mobile OS unit slashed by layoffs, there is a bit of good news for the fans -- HP is reportedly at last prepared to sell webOS.

The news was first reported by Reuters.  According to the international news agency, HP has retained Bank of America (BAC) subsidiary Merrill Lynch to help it decide whether to sell the unit.  HP has reportedly dumped its former advising firm in the matter -- Perella Weinberg Partners L.P. -- a firm which was recruited by recently fired former HP CEO Léo Apotheker.

Potential buyers are thought to include HTC Corp. (TPE:2498),, Inc. (AMZN), International Business Machines, Inc. (IBM), Oracle Corp. (ORCL), Intel Corp. (INTC), and Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM).  Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KS:005930) has already resoundingly rejected the possibility of a purchase.

Given the staff reductions and the frozen status of platform development, any webOS revival would require a lot of effort.  Some of the companies evaluating a webOS purchase are reportedly less interested in launching future webOS devices, and more interested in acquiring the former Palm unit for its trove of mobile intellectual property.

If HP does sell webOS, Reuters says it will likely be at a fire sale discount from the $1.2B USD that the company paid.  States a source, "This won't be the most robust auction in the world."

The potential sale price, according to the source would be in the "hundreds of millions of dollars" range.

In a recent interview new HP CEO Meg Whitman left the door open that HP could also hang on to the mobile operating system and use it in a new tablet.  She commented, "The question now before us is what do we do with webOS software and do we come back to market with webOS devices.  It obviously will not be the same device but it will be version 2.0"

HP may be tempted by the surge in popularity that the company's short-lived webOS tablet saw.  While the device was a sales disappointment, when sold at its full price that matched that of Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad, it saw buyers aplenty when HP killed production and opted to offer the devices at a drastic clearance.  Suddenly webOS tablets were a hot item, despite the relative lack of apps for the platform -- the platform's biggest weakness (particularly a lack of free ad-supported apps).

HP TouchPad
HP's TouchPad saw a surge of popularity and interest after the device's fire sale.

Of the potential buyers, Reuters points out that Amazon could be a leading candidate, given the fact that former Palm CEO and current innovation chief at HP's parent unit of Palm, Jon Rubinstein, is a board member.  Amazon has thus far committed to Android as its solution for tablets.

Fans should be warned not to get their hopes up too much, though.  Last month a sale was rumored, but it failed to materialize.

A very recent report from The Verge says that HP is holding an all hands meeting tonight to announce the final decision regarding the fate of webOS.

Sources: Reuters, The Verge

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One has to wonder...
By retrospooty on 11/8/2011 5:02:09 PM , Rating: 2
How badly HP will schlock this up from here.

RE: One has to wonder...
By WT on 11/9/2011 9:10:54 AM , Rating: 2
Give 'em a chance, I'm sure they can do even worse !

RE: One has to wonder...
By Samus on 11/9/2011 3:22:50 PM , Rating: 2
I do appreciate the image of Meg holding a press conference talking about an auction of WebOS expected in the 'hundreds of millions.' Those would be some substantial eBay fees.

Sell it to HTC
By TakinYourPoints on 11/8/2011 5:34:17 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, this would be great for HTC. They can get rid of an inferior OS that is being litigated to hell from every big player out there, and in the process they get a great mobile OS to go with their cool hardware. Win win.

RE: Sell it to HTC
By SpartanJet on 11/8/2011 5:50:30 PM , Rating: 2
HTC would be a good choice, but one thing they must do this late in the game is have the ability to use Android apps like the Playbook (plus there is already a proof of concept program that does this for the Touchpad). They simply can't come into the game with the craptastic apps they have for the Pre and expect to compete at this point. I mean until I got Android on my Touchpad I didn't even use it for anything other than a toilet surfer, there was absolutely no compelling apps for it.

Put it on Ebay!
By CrazyBernie on 11/9/2011 9:57:31 AM , Rating: 3
I'll bid 20 bucks for it.

By hillsurfer on 11/9/2011 9:22:48 AM , Rating: 2
If HP can't get a good price for it, and can't guarantee they won't have to compete against it, they're very likely to keep it just for that reason.

WebOS has a good interface that suffers from poor marketing. All it would take would be the right tablet for the right price with the right marketing campaign to make it a serious contender. I'm sure one of the questions being asked at HP is if they can really afford one more competitor, unless they plan to abandon tablets altogether.

A WebOS-style interface with Android at its core would be very interesting, and not that difficult to implement, but it can't happen if HP holds on to the WebOS interface patents/copyrights. It's the interface that makes WebOS interesting.

R.I.P. WebOs
By vcolon on 11/9/2011 9:00:04 PM , Rating: 2
Just let it die.

By p05esto on 11/9/2011 1:54:42 PM , Rating: 1
I love my $99 TouchPad and the 50 apps I have on it now. I could care less if there are any additional apps or system updates, it works fine now and will work fine for the next 10 years I'm sure. I have no complaints other than I wish it had a slot for a SD card.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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