HP shocked the industry on Thursday when it announced it was no longer going to develop devices based on the webOS operating system. It purchased the OS with its acquisition of Palm back in April 2010 for a whopping $1.2 billion. In July it released its much hyped HP TouchPad tablet with the webOS but it got slammed with poor reviews and, even worse for HP, low sales. On Thursday the company said, "HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward."
Today, in an interview at Engadget, HP's vice-president Stephen DeWitt, the current head of the company's webOS efforts, insisted that HP was sticking by the operating system even as it cuts off sales of its webOS-based smartphones and tablets. He says, "We can look at licensing; we can look at OEM and ODM-type relationships. There isn't a one-size-fits-all here, because a one-size approach is going to limit the opportunity of delivering tens of billions of connected devices -- at least in our opinion. So we made that decision." He added, "It doesn't mean -- in any way, shape or form, at all -- that we are abandoning webOS. In fact, we're allowing webOS to fulfill the vision that I think everyone in the industry wants to see, and that is a viable alternative to other tablet or mobile operating systems that are out there that have their own baggage." DeWitt admitted that HP has been talking with other companies about the webOS platform already but would comment on specifics.
While HP has announced that it is considering a sale or spin-off of its PC business, DeWitt was quick to say they still have a good relationship with Microsoft, saying, "I don't know if you're going to find any company out there that's had a longer-term relationship with Microsoft than we have. I mean, we've got intimacy up and down the stack with Microsoft, from the data center to the edge and all points in between." And what about HP creating tablets that would run Microsoft's next OS, Windows 8? DeWitt says, "We're talking with Microsoft about Windows tablets. We have a Windows tablet in the market right now that is very much a solution in our vertical approaches -- not something that we put on the shelves of Best Buy, because, obviously, if you're going to be on the shelves of Best Buy, you're competing against the iPad."