Published: August 18th, 2011
I'm reading in stunned disbelief that Hewlett-Packard Co. will  “discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones.”
I've never been shy about my fondness for webOS, from the first iteration of the Palm Pre, nor about my disappointment in the poor marketing support it received under the Palm badge and the molasses-slow development after the HP takeover two years ago. As an operating system, webOS is far more intuitive than Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBery OS, offers far more business integration and functionality than Apple Inc. 's iOS, and compares favourably with Windows Phone 7 as a hybrid personal/business platform.
According to the press release quoted above (which also describes a plan to sell or spin off HP's Personal Systems Group), HP says it “will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS going forward.” I can only read that as, “we're going to sell it if we can, but we doubt it.”
Combined with Google Inc.'s recent Motorola Mobile purchase, there's been a significant impact on the mobile landscape in recent days. A first-glance analysis:
* One more alternative to Apple's One True Tablet® is eliminated. But it's not that those likely to be buying webOS devices would be evaluating head-to-head against the iPad.
* Google has solidified Android's position regarding patent challenges. Motorola's hardware business will likely be spun off or killed, as much to appease Google's Android partners, who are probably quietly seething over the purchase, as to reflect Google lack of interest in the hardware market. The webOS news is likely better for Android than for iOS, though webOS was more of a potential threat than a clear and present danger, given the small but growing market footprint.
* RIM probably is the company treating the webOS news with the most glee, given that webOS devices were aimed squarely at RIM's enterprise wheelhouse, and it also leaves one less platform to for a critical mass of developers. I don't believe the Google-Motorola tie-up is a huge threat to RIM; at least, it's no more of a threat than Android was before.
* I'd call Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Phone 7 OS the clear winner here, fighting for share in the enterprise/personal hybrid market, but there have been noises that Microsoft's going to go the Windows 8 route  with future tablets, a move I can't get behind for two reasons: A) The last aborted wave of tablets five years ago demonstrated that desktop OSs won't fly on a tablet form factor, because they're aethetically phones, not laptops, and 2) Microsoft finally got mobile right with Phone 7, and it's a shame to lose the operating system that, now anyway, best combines intuitiveness with business utility.
On a related note, Beta is still dead. Mind you, so's VHS now, but wrapping my head around what that lesson means is something for another day.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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