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HP to release new webOS hardware, including tablets

A little earlier, we reported that HP had finally made a decision over the future of its webOS platform, by deciding to release the troubled mobile operating system under an open source licence. The world of technology seems somewhat divided over what this means for the future of webOS, with some suggesting this is just the prolonging of its long, slow death, while others believe this will give it the new lease of life that it deserves.

While discussion continues among tech pundits and across the blogosphere, many had understandably assumed that HP’s decision meant it was effectively washing its hands of webOS, so that it could focus on building a stronger consolidated portfolio of products. HP stated that it would remain a ‘participant’ in the webOS programme, but few people seriously believed that this meant anything other than a curatorial role.

So it certainly raised a few eyebrows when HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, confirmed to The Verge today that HP remains committed to building new hardware with webOS on board.

HP Chief Executive Officer, Meg Whitman

When asked about this, Whitman’s response was unambiguous: “We will use webOS in new hardware, but it’s just going to take us a little longer to reorganise the team in a quite different direction than we’ve been taking it in the past”, a reference to Palm’s original intention to keep webOS as a closed ecosystem. HP will be retaining an in-house team dedicated to webOS products and programme management, no doubt including some who transferred to HP with the Palm acquisition, and this team will need to be restructured to reflect the new open-source approach being taken.

Whitman was asked to elaborate on what kind of hardware HP will be developing with webOS, replying: “In the near term, what I would imagine – and this could change, in full disclosure – is, I would think, tablets. I do not believe we will be in the smartphone business again.” Asked to reconfirm that tablets are very much part of the plan for webOS, she replied, “Yes.” HP will also use webOS software for its next-generation printers. 

It looks like HP is committed to webOS in a way that it perhaps wasn’t under the leadership of its previous CEO, Leo Apotheker. Whitman not only confirmed that HP would be investing new resources in leading development of webOS under its new open-source auspices, but also that the company is looking longer term, with a timeframe of at least four years to build the project up to a level where its success can be reliably judged. As Whitman herself said: “It’s not just something you say ‘if it’s not perfect in a year, we’re out of here’.

Will this be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in webOS history? Or will HP manage to make a mess of it again? Was HP right to make webOS open-source... or should they have just killed it off entirely? Have your say on all this in the Neowin Forums.

Images via HP and Exame.com

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