Business, Software Programs

HP Will License WebOS to Other Companies


At Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD conference this week, HP CEO Leo Apotheker said, "I happen to believe that WebOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system. It’s not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. Right now we are focused on getting it out in the market to gain the credibility. WebOS will also be adopted by many partners who provide services to small and medium businesses."

HP's CEO Leo Apotheker at AllThingsD Conference
HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker at AllThingsD Conference

Let?s face facts, the Palm Pre and Pixi were marketing flops because the hardware was lousy and Palm married themselves to Sprint for over a year. [This author likes the webOS and have regularly used a Palm Pre, Pre+, and Pre 2 since Verizon Wireless took it on.]

Okay, the new HP CEO was talking up two new products, the Palm Pre 3.0 and Touchpad with version 3.0 of the webOS that are not yet shipping. That?s his job. A big problem is that HP/Palm only has about 7,000 apps for their smartphone compared to Apple?s and Android’s literally hundreds of thousands of apps. Were his comments just face-saving in front of a crowd of Wall Street analysts and tech journalists?

Maybe not.

A few hundred miles away, Jon Rubinstein, VP of HP?s webOS division (and former CEO of Palm) was speaking at Qualcomm UPLINQ Conference Fireside Chat event held in San Diego. He thinks the webOS has an edge over competitors because it can run on phones, tablets and PCs and that people will be able to connect those devices.

HP's Joe Rubenstein, Head of Palm/webOS at Qualcomm's UPLINQ Conference
HP’s Joe Rubenstein, Head of Palm/webOS at Qualcomm’s UPLINQ Conference

Rubinstein took on licensing and said: "Our model is not to be in the licensing business. There is great strength in being able to deliver a unified experience to the customer, but we are more than willing to partner with one or two special companies. But we’re not interested in the general licensing business." He then got coy about what is a special company and said: "One that will be bring something new to the ecosystem." Could it be Cisco?

Palm used to build hardware that lead the industry. The blogs are full of user comments that prove Palm hardware is trailing the pack. Somehow their Pre, Pre 2, Pixi, and Veer 4G all share similar flaws in basic usability and quality. HP has promised that they will put lots of marketing resources, money and people, behind the new HP Touchpad and the new Pre 3.0. HP does have a strong presence in the business world and with the world’s wireless carriers. It will be interesting to see whether HP has hired a real team of hardware folks this time. Or if they will show up with the same old stuff.

HP Touchpad will be introduced next week at the conference in Las Vegas, NV. When will it ship?
HP Touchpad will be launched for the second time next week at the HP’s conference in Las Vegas, NV. When will it ship?

Possibly it will take licensing the webOS to another company to get rid of the market’s opinion that HP/Palm phone products are poorly designed, cheaply built, and not a real competitor compared to the iPhone and Android smartphones.