Monday, February 25, 2013

HP sells most of webOS to LG, cries its way to the bank

HP, which long ago divested itself of any Palm devices and their accompanying webOS software load, has divested itself of key portions of webOS, as well. As announced on Monday, HP is selling most of webOS to LG, minus the cloud services portion. To be clear, the deal leaves open the possibility that LG could produce a webOS smartphone (and presumably a tablet, too).

Considering that HP just unveiled its first Android tablet, and has plans for more this year -- and probably a smartphone in 2014 -- we're sure that the Silicon Valley giant isn't crying over giving up the platform it acquired from the late, lamented Palm. However, the only portion of webOS that HP will continue to own is the cloud services division, meaning the App Catalog, updating system, and other backend services that interact with the platform.

For the short term, LG will focus its webOS efforts on television. Long-term, LG's plans include possibly producing a smartphone or other mobile devices that run webOS.

It's the latest page in the story of a pioneer in PDAs and smartphones -- and the software that it created to completely remake itself after failing to leverage PalmOS quickly enough -- webOS. The company released its Pre and Pre 2 webOS phones before being acquired by HP for more than $1 billion. It mistakenly limited the carrier choice of its Pre device to Sprint for a considerable period, and never licensed the software, which is one of the winning moves that Google made with Android.

While webOS was well-received -- and still has fans -- it languished for much the same reason that HD-DVD failed -- a lack of content. In HD-DVD's case this was a lack of movies and other media, and in webOS' case it was a lack of apps. Palm, cash-strapped as it was, was also slow to introduce new handsets, whereas every week or so users could turn around and see a new Android device.

After HP acquired Palm, it shipped the TouchPad tablet -- another failed product -- before giving up the ghost and achieving TouchPad success with a fire sale. HP released some of the operating system last year under an open source license, but its very recent move to Android had to indicate the company had no desire to continue on with webOS development.

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