HP has cut development of webOS hardware like the Pre and TouchPad, effectively taking away the only home the mobile operating system has. With nothing else to run on and no other companies using it, the OS will linger on ice unless and until a buyer or licensee comes along. Meanwhile, Google reaches out to Motorola, AT&T juggles SMS rates, and the Verizon strike takes some ugly turns.
While the iPad remains king of the tablet market in terms of sales, it's getting stared down by a growing gang of competitors, most of which have taken sides with Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system. Android tablets come in large and small, expensive and cheap, really nice and complete crap. There are a lot of them out there, but they all coalesce around that same Android platform.
Then there are the rebels who go it alone. The RIM PlayBook is keeping its head above water for the time being, bolstered by the fact that Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) is a mobile stalwart that's still kicking, despite the fact that it's certainly seen better days. But it was HP's (NYSE: HPQ) runner in the tablet race that seems to have become the market's latest casualty.
In reporting its quarterly earnings, HP dropped a bombshell: It's going to spin off its PC business and abandon its webOS hardware efforts. WebOS is the mobile operating system first developed by Palm and then gobbled up by HP when it swallowed Palm whole.
Killing each and every product that uses a particular OS isn't a literal death sentence -- webOS may well be scooped up by some company with a caring soul that can't stand to see it die. Or maybe HP wants to license it out. But unless that happens, webOS will effectively be lying dormant, and an operating system can start to decompose real fast when it's sitting still, especially in such a viciously competitive market. Developers stop building apps, consumers stop paying attention, and the ones who bought devices before they were de-shelved get bitter because firmware improvements, bug fixes and new software stop coming.
HP's decision to halt webOS device development could send a once-proud operating system into the first stages of zombification. It started out as an innovative and fascinating mobile OS forged by Palm as a sort of last-ditch effort to gain traction in a mobile market that had passed it by. Critics liked it, but it wasn't enough to keep Palm breathing on its own. So HP swooped in last year and bought Palm for US$1.2 billion with the intention of doing something amazing with the OS. But HP's taken away the only hardware webOS has, so now it appear webOS is a two-time loser.
The product that really drove home webOS devices' failure to gain traction was the TouchPad, the tablet that HP released just a few weeks ago. WebOS first debuted in Palm phones, and HP itself put out a few new webOS phones after the acquisition was finalized, but the TouchPad is perhaps the first webOS device that HP had a real hand in shaping from the ground up.
But less than two months after arriving on shelves, the TouchPad had already undergone a permanent price cut. Worse yet, retail chain Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) reportedly sold less than 10 percent of the 270,000 TouchPads it initially ordered. The rest of them sat there gathering guano in Best Buy's warehouses, and the retailer apparently wanted HP to swing by and take back some of the excess stock.
So what was a very crowded mobile OS space a year ago has become noticeably leaner. The less viable platforms are receding -- Symbian's being scaled back, Meego is on its last leg, and now webOS is out on its ear unless a buyer or licensee comes along. That leaves iOS and Android comfortably on top. RIM's working up a sweat trying to right its ship in phones while attempting to establish a tablet beachhead. And Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is spinning up its Windows Phone efforts with that big Nokia (NYSE: NOK) partnership, as well as its tablet plans for when Windows 8 comes along.
Jeep A/C compressors