HP's webOS Still Coming to PCs, Printers

Believe it or not, webOS chief Stephen DeWitt told AllThingsD on Monday that webOS is going to be a popular platform on a variety of connected devices. The outlook seems somewhat unusual given that HP publicly nuked its plans to continue development of smartphones and tablets based on its just-acquired webOS software. And right now it seems that the platform itself has been put "on hold" although it's expected to appear on PCs and printers possibly next year.

The problem HP currently faces is that it's not sure where the future of webOS resides. There are a number of options on the tablet including licensing out the operating system to other manufacturers, partner with a single company to produce devices, shift its webOS focus from smartphones and tablets entirely and a few other ideas. And despite what's happened since HP acquired (and dismantled) Palm, there are external third parties still interested in the software.

“We’ve had a number of discussions and there’s a lot of interest around webOS,” said DeWit.

One aspect of the webOS future seems certain: it will arrive on HP desktops and printers. "We are continuing with our webOS-on-Windows work,” DeWitt said. The company will honor its previous commitments, but when that will take place he wouldn't say, only indicating that the company will reveal its plans when it's ready.

For those who purchased AT&T's webOS-powered Veer smartphone or picked up a $100 TouchPad tablet over the weekend, here's a bit of good news: HP plans to offer further updates for both devices. HP's Veer smartphone will continue to be sold, supported and updated. TouchPad owners who purchased the device before the fire sale will even be "taken care of," with more details surrounding that group of loyal customers coming soon.

Even more, consumers who were smacking their lips for a Pre3 upgrade may even still get a chance to do so. “Pre3 is being launched in very selective areas,” DeWitt said without providing specifics. “We’re not broadly launching Pre3.”

Ultimately HP knows it has a lot of work to do in the PR department now that the webOS cat is out of the proverbial bag. Offering up its discontinued tablet for $100 (rather than dump them all in a landfill next to Atari's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) was a step in the right direction, but there's still quite a bit of confusion as to where HP plans to go. As it stands now, it looks like HP was more focused on building its patent portfolio than producing actual consumer products. After all, the TouchPad was on the market for a month before HP threw in the towel? Seriously HP?

"I think the reaction to the news has been intense," he said. "We have a lot of work to do in terms of communicating more clearly what was shared with the public last week."

Honestly, something smells fishy. Like Nintendo, HP made a drastic move by dropping the pricetag of its first two tablets down to $99 (16 GB) and $149.99 (32 GB), and now it plans to offer something for those who purchased the tablets prior to the price hack. The company's original goal was to become the #2 tablet on the market, seemingly wanting to slide into second place after Apple's iPad 2. What better way to flood the tablet market than by offering a "fire sale" while still supporting the operating system? Now all those new customers – those who previously wouldn't have purchased the pricey tablets – will now be purchasing apps (which HP gets a percentage).

Sound familiar?

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  • house70
    It has crossed my mind this might have been a brilliant marketing ploy, if there was one (or a perfect flop, time will tell), after seeing the success of the fire sale. It will be a little hard for HP to turn on their head a few months from now (assuming the webOS catches on) and offer a better (hardware-wise) tablet, while forgetting about the customers that bought the first wave.
    On the other hand, these customers will not be able to complain too much, given the huge discount they received. Apple has fooled it's customers repeatedly with new and "improved" versions of their phone and tablet and the discount was symbolic in their case (of course, one has to take into account the fact that their customers are extremely loyal and would not agree for one second they got cheated by their gods).
    One final alternative for webOs would be to actually become just an OS, distributed to various hardware makers, like Android is. In this case, their best bet would be to expand support for cross-platform applications, i.e. to enable iOS and Android apps to run on their webOS environment. Imagine the freedom to choose not only the hardware, but also the best of all app worlds. If such an OS existed, I would jump in without looking back.
  • slabbo
    they shouldn't have quit on touchpad so soon like i said. It was HP's portal to sell their new WebOS and rebranding themselves to become the new Apple. It would have been an excellent portal to their cloud services if they ever wanted to go that route.
  • compton
    I thought for a minute that it might be some kinda marketing ploy -- whether purposly or accidentally -- but the problem is the HP app store. It's terrible. There's really nothing there. So in terms of month to month performance, August is going to be a lot better for TouchPad apps the July, but that's probably not saying a whole hell of a lot. Unless they have something good in the works already, I don't see that being much of an incentive. It's true that they surely take a hit selling them at $99/$150, but there's no way to really make that money back through apps, even if it's not much to make up. There's just not that much to purchase. Maybe it's all a huge gamble.