HP delays decision on fate of webOS

With various rumors flying about potential buyers for webOS, it was expected that HP might announce a deal

A little birdie (The Verge) revealed earlier today that HP's new CEO Meg Whitman had scheduled an all-hands meeting for the WebOS crew. The news sparked speculation that HP had perhaps found a suitor for the mobile platform, but those predictions turned up false. Instead, Whitman announced that no decision had yet been made and that WebOS remains in a holding pattern awaiting a final decision.

The expectation--given Whitman's decree that a decision on the fate of WebOS would happen quickly, and swirling rumors of various potential deals to purchase the Palm mobile platform--was that HP would make some grand announcement regarding the sale of WebOS. Instead, the big news is that there is no big news.

A report from Joshua Topolsky of The Verge quotes Whitman stating, "It's really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision."

A post from John Gruber on The Daring Fireball provides some interesting insights on the HP announcement. Gruber sympathizes with Whitman's desire to make the right decision, but he stresses that time is crucial because the longer HP waits to make a decision, the less valuable WebOS is on the open market, and the less valuable it is for HP to keep it.

WebOS has filled an interesting niche among mobile platforms since its inception. It is a very capable mobile OS--even better in many ways than iOS or Android which dominate the mobile device market--yet it just can't seem to gain enough traction to succeed. It seems destined to follow Betamax video tapes, the Commodore Amiga, IBM OS/2, and other technically superior failures into history.

HP still seems like a potential savior for the platform, though. HP has the hardware engineering capabilities, and the marketing muscle that would be required to make WebOS a success. If Whitman could turn WebOS around and make it a contender, she would be a hero. The problem is that it would be a costly gamble, and it would the type of gamble that Whitman probably doesn't want to haunt her tenure at HP if it fails.

To quote Shakespeare: "The better part of valor is discretion". However, there is another popular phrase that says, "Fortune favors the bold." Only time will tell whether Whitman's caution in deciding too quickly turns out to be a brilliant move, or a timid delay that ultimately ends up costing HP.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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