Roger Cheng for CNET has the news that LG is buying the all-but-abandoned OS from HP. But:
LG has no intent to use WebOS for its smartphones, with the company largely focused on Android as its mobile operating system of choice. Indeed, much of the WebOS team members that work on the various mobile products at HP has already left, according to a person familiar with the deal.
However, Nilay Patel of The Verge has other information:
HP will indeed sell key pieces of its webOS product and team to LG for use in smart TVs, but contrary to earlier leaked reports, the deal doesn’t include the entire webOS portfolio. What’s more, LG’s plans include the possibility of eventually producing a phone or other mobile devices that run webOS, although the company remains focused on televisions in the short term.
He goes on to note that this sounds a bit like a clusterfuck, with LG seemingly not very clear about what they want to do with webOS (sort of like, well, HP):
And LG doesn’t seem to have a firm long-term plan for webOS, and all options are on the table. “In the short term, we’ll apply this to the TV only,” said Dr. Ahn. “But in the future, wherever our plans take us, we’ll consider an extension to other devices.” Asked why it made more sense to invest in webOS than to repurpose Android, Ahn said that LG would use Android “together” with webOS, but that he thinks “webOS is better in some of the user experience like card UI.”
Sure sounds like a hedging of a bet to me…
What WebOS did well is exactly what Amazon’s Kindle Fire needs: A beautiful, clever interface, second only to Apple’s. (And even better than iOS in some ways.) Combined with Amazon’s expertise in e-commerce, digital media, and its aggressive pricing, a Kindle TouchPad might be an even more compelling device than what Amazon has built on its own.
Love that idea. Wish it would have happened.
Over the course of the next year, I’m guessing we see more and more Android partners get fed up with some aspect of the OS — be it the hardships making money, Google’s own intentions, lawsuits, etc. With that in mind, webOS remains a dark horse for something interesting.
But, as Brian X. Chen points out, HP is putting fewer and fewer resources into it as the move to open source the software is nearly complete. Someone is going to need to step up to take control and keep development going. HTC? LG? Facebook?
Speaking of prison terms, Josh Topolsky scored an interview with Jon Rubinstein on his way out of the door from HP.
Rubinstein tries — and fails — to hold back his contempt for the past few HP regimes. It reads like he and fellow HP VP Todd Bradley had a grand plan (this one, perhaps?) for HP/webOS that disintegrated when then-CEO Mark Hurd was ousted. That, of course, kickstarted months of turmoil and turnover, highlighted by the disastrous Leo Apotheker reign (which didn’t even last a year).
The notion that Rubinstein’s exit was planned all along sure smells like total bullshit.
Best part of the interview:
There were things that didn’t work out the way everyone expected — can you talk about what caused the issues?
I don’t think it really matters at this point. It’s old history at this point.
You don’t want to talk about Leo?
Nah. We built an amazing OS in webOS. It’s very advanced, it’s where things are going. But we ran out of runway, and we ended up at HP and HP wasn’t in good enough shape on its own to be able to support the effort. I had four CEOs! Mark acquired us, Les Jackson took over as the interim CEO, then Leo, and now Meg.
While Rubinstein says he’s going to take some time off, he’s not retiring. Given the bad blood in recent years, I wouldn’t expect him back at Apple anytime soon. But remember, he is still an Amazon board member — and Amazon is pushing deeper into hardware…
Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm (and former Apple executive), has left HP.
With Palm hardware now dead and webOS now open-sourced, the writing has been on the wall for this to happen for a while. To hear HP tell it, this was the plan all along. As Arik Hesseldahl writes:
Rubinstein is said to have no immediate plans, and had completed a 12-24 month commitment to stay with HP after the acquisition. “Jon has fulfilled his commitment and we wish him well,” HP spokeswoman Mylene Mangalindan said.
Sounds almost like a prison term.
Good follow up on the webOS situation by Palm vet and notable web persona Dion Almaer.
His stance is essentially that Palm had a ton of talented people, but webOS was rushed and was ultimately pushed out the door too early. This led to a domino effect.
He also argues that the web in many ways is powerful enough to be a full-fledged mobile platform, but webOS wasn’t position correctly to do that. And the really hard work wasn’t put in to make that happen. Instead, webOS was sort of a poor-performing half-measure.
Almaer’s bottom line is that the web without any native code isn’t ready yet — with an emphasis on yet.
If we brought a true, reliable, performant, Web platform with the great UI of Matias and friends…. webOS wouldn’t be in the hands of Meg right now.
A pretty damning report from Brian X. Chen for The New York Times. It essentially says that Palm and then HP were incompetent with their building and management of webOS.
But even more damning may be what it says about the “web versus native” debate. Quoting Paul Mercer, the former senior director of software for Palm:
“If the bar is to build Cupertino-class software in terms of responsiveness and beauty,” he said, “WebKit remains not ready for prime time, because the Web cannot deliver yet.”
This is interesting since Apple itself was vital in the development of WebKit and still uses it as the backbone of Safari. But consider this: when the iPhone first launched in 2007, Apple tried to get third party developers to make web apps for the iPhone since there was no native development SDK. A year later, they backed down from that and released the framework that created the most important element of the iOS ecosystem: third-party native apps.
It’s perhaps a bit too simplistic to say, but Palm didn’t have the luxury to pivot to native because “native” for webOS is the web. And Mercer argues that it’s still not ready to match native app development — a topic which is entering its fourth year of debate.
I can’t speak from the developer side of things, but all I know is what I see as a user: native apps still destroy web apps. Starting this week, I’m sure we’re going to hear how that’s poised to change (yet again) in 2012. But I doubt it. And that’s why webOS is still screwed.
VentureBeat’s Devindra Hardawar reports not only that HP was trying to sell webOS for $1.2 billion (the same price HP paid to get all of Palm just last year), but that Facebook was one suitor they met with.
While Hardawar cites a source saying that this deal “was practically laughed out of the room”, I wouldn’t totally put the idea of webOS and Facebook to bed.
Back in August, when HP was in crazy mode, myself and others laid out reasons why a Facebook/webOS deal would make sense. It still does — but maybe even more so now that HP ultimately decided to open source the OS.
Most of the reports about the Facebook Phone have them forking a version of Android in a similar way to what Amazon did for the Kindle Fire. But imagine if Facebook forked webOS instead?
Given Facebook’s HTML5 ambitions, and webOS’ HTML base, this seems to make more sense than forking a Java development platform.
I also wouldn’t sleep on one or more OEM pushing for this. Sooner or later, one of Android’s big OEM partners is going to break away, likely when Google tries to exert more control on things like OS updates. Google can say what it wants about the Motorola deal, the second that happened, all the other OEMs started looking around at other options. Open source webOS is an attractive one. Open source webOS re-written to be FacebookOS is an extremely attractive one.
HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman talking to employees about the future of webOS today.
In April of 2010, when HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion, I spoke with Brian Humphries, HP’s SVP of Strategy. His quote:
“Our intent is to double down on webOS.”
That was just a year and a half ago. I’m getting whiplash watching HP these days.
Asked by amnuts
I’d say no, there is no chance of this happening.
First of all, Apple doesn’t need webOS. If they make a low-cost iPhone, it will run iOS, just like every other iPhone.
Yes, Rubinstein used to work for Apple and was one of Jobs’ closest generals for a while (he also worked for NeXT). But in recent years his actions with Palm and then HP have probably only pissed off Jobs. Now that Jobs has stepped down as CEO, I supposed Rubinstein could be a good candidate to take the COO reins from Tim Cook — but I’m not sure he’ll give them up in his new role.
Apple is now a completely different company from when Rubinstein left. For example, there was no iPhone, now the company’s key product.
In the rush to analyze what HP just did, everyone is throwing around a ton of ideas for what happens next. Of those, Nicholas Carlson’s is the best so far.
Dan Frommer calls this “not a crazy idea”. I’d go farther. It’s a good one given Facebook’s vision. They clearly believe in HTML5 and are working towards that future, but at the same time, they need their own mobile OS solution. WebOS would give them the best of both worlds.
Facebook has tried to fork Android to make their own flavor, but whispers suggest that hasn’t worked as well as was hoped. WebOS could be fully their’s — for a price.
The idea of Amazon buying webOS makes some sense too, but they’re likely already too far down the path of building their own Android fork. We should hear more about that soon.
Google is another wild card. They already have Android and Chrome OS, so why buy a third OS? Well, if the Palm patents were included, that would be one reason. But more generally, webOS is also in-line with their vision of a web-based future. Certainly part of it could help Chrome OS and/or Android.
But a certain $12.5 billion deal that just went down may preclude a webOS deal.
One final thought: HP bought Palm for $1.2 billion. Given the current market, Palm’s patent portfolio alone is likely worth much more than that. HP’s move could go from dumbfounding to genius if they spin those patents off for several times what they paid for all of Palm.
Update: As thatwhichis thatwhichis points out below, former Palm CEO and current HP exec Jon Rubinstein is on Amazon’s board…
Update 2: Yeah, this puppy is getting sold.
It was crazy enough when talk began leaking out this morning that HP was spinning off their PC business — they’re the biggest PC maker in the world.
Now they’re winding down (read: killing off) webOS and killing off the Pre and the just-released TouchPad?
Yes, they have their large enterprise business. And now they have Autonomy. So essentially, HP is going to try to do the same move IBM did in the 1990s. It worked for IBM, will it work for HP?
More importantly, did HP really need to do this? Seems a little premature to me. Yes, the TouchPad was a flop. But we’re in the very early days of the mobile/tablet space. And again, HP rules (ruled) the PC business.
With the webOS buy, HP had an opportunity to control an entire ecosystem — hardware and software working seamlessly together. They could have been a true foil to Apple. Instead, they’re giving up and becoming an enterprise company.