Hp announced its fourth quarter earnings today and, while the company is doing ok, webOS is at death’s door. In the full report, webOS was mentioned 25 times and each mention was about the loss the company incurred from “the wind down of HP’s webOS device business.” It’s the sad story of a platform that had promise, but was lost in the bureaucracy of a big corporation like HP.
Back in 2010, the future looked rosy for Jon Rubinstein and company. Palm was acquired by HP for $1.2 billion and webOS would have a future. Mark Hurd was in charge and he was going to put webOS on HP’s web-connected devices. The company was going to take webOS to the next level and “double down” on the platform. But things went south after Hurd was ousted by the Board of Directors and replaced by Leo Apotheker, an enterprise software guy who once was the head of SAP.
HP’s webOS devices were lackluster at that time and it didn’t take long for Apotheker to announce during the Q3 2011 earnings conference call that he was going to kill the mobile platform. He also decided to exit the PC hardware business, a radical move which caused a stir and led to his removal from CEO. Less than one month and 25 million dollars later, Meg Whitman stepped in and she has been as wishy-washy on the future of webOS as her predecessor.
HP is waiting to sound the death knell, but you don’t have to look any further than the recent earnings report to see that the end is near for webOS. The platform cost HP $1.2 billion in acquisition costs, another $1.6 billion in charges related to the wind down of development this past quarter and an unknown amount in between.
HP’s best move is to put an end to this slow death and kill off webOS once and for all. HP can do whatever it wants with what’s left. It can keep the patents, keep the mobile operating system or sell them both. Just give the webOS customers some closure and let them live out the rest of their device’s lifespan with the support of the homebrew community.