HP's Apotheker Weighs in on WebOS on PCs. Or Not.

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

As HP gets ready to discontinue its smartphones and its TouchPad tablet, the future of its WebOS software remains uncertain. HP had said that the operating system would become a unifying feature of all HP's devices up and down the stack. Here's what CEO Apotheker recently said about whether HP would still put WebOS on HP's PCs.

HP recently told the industry that it planned to make WebOS an underlying feature not just in its smartphones and tablets but also in its PCs, leading many to question the tech giant’s commitment to Microsoft and its Windows operating system for client PCs.

That question remained on the minds of financial analysts listening to HP’s earnings conference call last week. The call came amid a torrent of news out of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing giant, including the discontinuation of smartphones and tablets that use the WebOS and an announcement that HP would be looking at strategic alternatives (a spin off, a sale, or status quo) for HP’s Personal Systems Group – its PCs.

So if WebOS is being marginalized and PCs may also go away, will HP still be putting WebOS on its PCs in the short term while it decides what to do with PSG, (a process that CEO Leo Apotheker says will take 12 to 18 months)?

Here’s what HP’s CEO had to say to analysts in answering that very question:

Analyst Question: "How do we think about the thought that you were going to try to push webOS further into your PC division? So are you now more aligned on the Microsoft side? Are you still going to try to continue to use webOS? Just any color on you can give us on sort of how will you anticipate PSG developing over the next year to year and half?"

Leo Apotheker: "Let me try to answer this and we'll try to answer this as a team. So what the board and the management team have been working very diligently over the last period is to really look at all of our options and what the board has decided to do, together with the management team, is to look at all of the strategic options around PSG. And we're really examining all of them. The announcement of today will allow us to look at this much more closely, including all of the synergies and other aspects of this operation. And over time, a decision will or will not crystallize on what the most appropriate way is to deal with PSG going forward. That's all I can say about this right now, and we will refrain from commenting on what the strategic options are until the board will make such a decision. Regarding webOS and the future of webOS, and I will not talk about the device business, I will talk about the software side of it. We are looking at all of our strategic options concerning the software. I'd like to repeat what [CFO] Cathie [Lesjak] had said early on, the software has been received very well. It's very elegantly designed. Developers like it. Users like it, and we will be looking at all of the options from our own devices to third-party devices to other hardware manufacturers to other manufacturers, to other people who need this kind of software, and we will be looking at all possible business models from licensing to any other possibility in order to evaluate how we can best extract value out of webOS."



Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com