Future of webOS on Phones
Full disclosure: I am a webOS user and fan. I'm still rocking my Verizon Pre2. I bought a Touchpad before the firesale (and luckily got refunded the difference later). But I'm also a realist, and I'd come to accept webOS as a doomed platform. The deck had always been stacked against webOS, and whatever hope there was for it to catch a hot hand had been destroyed by HP. Before today, my plan was to get a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon later this month...and that hasn't changed. But, there is still a little part of me that holds out hope for webOS after all of today's news. I know, I know, I'm crazy...but hear me out.
Like most people, when I heard the news of webOS being open sourced I took it as HP finally admitting the platform was dead, cutting their losses and folding. They'd shopped around for a buyer or licensee but had no luck, so now they were dumping it in a merciful way. Open sourcing, it seemed, would allow webOS to live on- but only as a hobbyist platform, not as something serious.
But then I started thinking about it more, news continued to trickle out, and I started to develop a different interpretation of how HP might be playing its hand. First, I thought to myself, webOS is almost useless without "the cloud" (i.e. servers on the internet) backing it up. Who would run these servers now- HP? Why would they do that if they were just out to dump webOS; out of the goodness of their hearts? Don't think so. To avoid a class action lawsuit by Touchpad owners? Maybe- but if so, why open source the OS at all, potentially adding more users who would hit servers they're trying to turn off!? If HP is going to maintain the webOS cloud , they must have some plan to make money off of it.
Then we heard the news that HP planned to keep Palm's patent portfolio and use it to protect webOS....now things are getting interesting. Finally- Meg Whitman pronounced that HP would probably make webOS tablets again, eventually. Whoa! What does this all mean?
Who knows. It could mean nothing. It could mean HP's management is still, well...being HP's management, and made this decision by having a drunk monkey spin around 10 times and throw darts in the dark. But maybe, JUST MAYBE, HP has an ace up their sleeve. Think about it: to make a Windows Phone handset you have to pay Microsoft and you can't customize much (unless you're Nokia). To make an Android handset you have to....pay Microsoft, or risk a lawsuit, and you can customize it- but be careful not to make it too similar to a certain fruit company's OS or you ALSO risk a lawsuit.
What if HP is saying to the Samsungs, Sony's, and HTC's of the world: here is webOS; make phones; make tablets. Its totally free- no one can sue us because our patents our bullet proof, and you can do what you want with it. Just hook it into our (admittedly meager) App Catalog and we'll happily take a rake of the app sales. Oh, and we might make a tablet or two ourselves to try and make some money off of the hardware. Eh eh?
If you were one of the aforementioned companies, would you devote some resources to this endeavor? Not to abandon Android or WP, but just to hedge your bets? After all, you have to feel a little uncomfortable about the future of both platforms given the Motorola acquisition and Nokia's "special" standing with MS.
I know, its a long shot that this is even HP's plan, let alone that it would succeed. But who knows- maybe a happy ending is "in the cards."