Who Loves WebOS? Not Samsung, not anyone

The Korean company says it will "never" buy the operating system, casting doubt on its future

More and more, WebOS seems like an operating system that not even its own mother could love.

Samsung CEO Choi Gee Sung told reporters at the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin that his company will "never" consider purchasing WebOS from HP, which announced last month that it is discontinuing WebOS devices. Some analysts had speculated that the Korean device maker might be interested in picking up the essentially device-less platform.

While Samsung is perhaps best known for making certain Android phones, it does have its own OS, called Bada, which runs on a number of devices, including the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Note, Tab 7.7 and three new Wave smartphones.

But apparently we won't see a merging of Bada and WebOS anytime soon.

Despite being scorned by HP, WebOS did at one time have a loyal fan base, back when it was Palm's OS. HP bought out Palm in 2010 and morphed the mobile platform into WebOS. The HP Touchpad was positioned to be the signature WebOS device, but after only a month and half, HP killed it and its Palm phones.

What followed that announcement has turned the tablet world on its head and led to lots of confusion over the future of WebOS. HP dropped the price of TouchPads to as low as $99 to liquidate its WebOS inventory and they became a sensation, flying off online and brick-and-mortar shelves. Now HP says it will make one last run of the tablets to help satisfy demand and may extend support for a while, and the rumor mill about WebOS's future is at full speed.

Choi's quick dismissal of a possible WebOS acquisition helps put things back into perspective. A bunch of firesale tablets doesn't mean consumers have found new love for WebOS; it just means they've just found a great bargain. A TouchPad contains about $300 worth of hardware alone, after all. Given the buzz online about the possibility of porting Android onto those cheap TouchPads, it seems that their new owners could have even less love for WebOS than HP.

HTC and Facebook have not responded to speculation that they may be interested in buying the OS, and HP says it's still open to licensing deals and partnerships to advance WebOS. The day before announcing the discontinuation, HP said it was looking at applying WebOS to other home devices and automotive infotainment systems. If WebOS does become the leading operating system for blenders one day, it will be about as significant as being the top OS on Mars. It's time to let WebOS—and Palm—finally rest in peace.

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Eric Mack

PC World (US online)
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