A view on the future of WebOS - "It's best to have failure happen early in life. It wakes up the Phoenix bird in you so you rise from the ashes."
With the suggestion that HP may be looking to sell WebOS there have been a number of potential buyers touted for the much maligned OS, ranging from Sony to Oracle via just about every technology company in-between.
Along with WebOS HP also purchased the rights to all of Palm's trademarks and that is where this post has its origins. Over the last few years there has been continual talk of Chinese OEMs looking to gain traction in the US market and up until this point that has been attempted through the production of various carrier branded handsets, most notably by Huawei and ZTE. These Chinese brands have struggled to gain their desired foothold in the US market largely due to government hostility and lack of consumer awareness.
Huawei or ZTE may see a purchase of WebOS, and the familiar Palm brand, as a potential entry method into the American consumer market. Both these organisations have the capital and scale to make such a purchase, however, the question remains if the political environment exists to allow this to happen.
It is still far more likely that WebOS will be purchased by an established competitor and stripped of its parts, one the other hand, could one of these formally obscure Chinese OEMs be the saviour of not only WebOS but also the Palm brand? If either of these outcomes is to happen it would appear that a purchase by Huawei or ZTE is the only option.
Many industry commentators, and HP themselves, appear to view WebOS as the main asset that was acquired from the Palm purchase, however, beyond the pages of 'The Verge' et al this OS and its associated 'WebOS' brand does not resonate with consumers. WebOS has very poor brand recognition in comparison to its former parent Palm. It is true that the Palm brand has been damaged significantly this over the years, however, many consumers still remember it as that brand which made their PDA and helped make their life, at the turn of the century, a whole lot more integrated. Many of these same consumers will likely have never heard of, nor encountered WebOS.
It is true that WebOS is a solid and functional mobile operating system, however, in comparison to the power of the Palm brand it pales into insignificance. While any purchase from HP will undoubtedly bring some useful patents and a neglected OS it will also bring something far more useful to any purchaser and that is consumer mind share in the form of the nostalgic Palm brand.
If HP does put WebOS and its associated brands on the market, careful note should be taken of any rumblings from Huawei and ZTE. Operating systems and specs are all very important in the sale of a mobile phone; however, the power of branding must never be underestimated.
WebOS may not be saved but Palm may yet rise from the ashes.