Why would HP want to go up against Google’s Android platform? That operating system is open source and available to any handset maker. To add another company to the mix against the dominant force in the industry makes, well, absolutely no sense.
After HP decided to discontinue the TouchPad and slash its price to $99, consumers lined up to buy the device. More recently, the company offered its last shipment of the tablets at the same, cheap price. Now, consumers are starting to warm to WebOS and the tablet. Why make WebOS open source now? The smart move would have been to try again.
A key component in HP’s open-source strategy is making sure WebOS runs on devices made by other companies. The only trouble is, many of those other firms, including Dell, Acer, Asus, and others, are HP competitors in the PC market. It’s doubtful those firms will want to help HP.
At the same time, Microsoft has been trying dismantle other operating systems in mobile. On the Android front, it’s bringing patent-infringement claims against vendors. Now that WebOS is open source, HP could get caught up in the costly patent-infringement lawsuits impacting the mobile market right now. And that simply isn’t worth it.
The issue for HP is that even if the operating system lives on and other device makers offer it in their products, consumers still view the platform as a loser. So, when future devices hit store shelves, the chances of them succeeding seem awfully slim.
Admittedly, HP’s initial decision to sell its own products running an operating system that only it controlled was a good one. Apple has proven that controlling all aspects of a mobile device — software and hardware — is best for those who want a worthwhile user experience. And yet, HP has turned its back on that.
HP CEO Meg Whitman says that there is still a possibility that her company will launch new tablets in the coming years. Huh? Didn’t HP just get out of the mobile hardware business altogether? The company doesn’t seem to have its entire strategy in place just yet. So, to make the decision now to turn WebOS open source might not have been the best idea.
Shareholders like certainty. They also like to know that management understands the nature of the markets the company operates in and can make solid decisions based off that. But by making WebOS open source and basically swallowing the $1.2 billion HP bought Palm for, shareholders have seen hardly any return on that investment. And they’re not happy about it.
Before HP made the decision to make WebOS open source, the company said that it would consider bringing the operating system to PCs and servers. The move seemed like a good one, since it could potentially move HP away from reliance on Windows at some point in the future. That plan has been tossed out, and the company no longer has an operating system it can use to differentiate its products.
When it’s all said and done, HP must ask itself if another mobile operating system is really needed. Android and iOS own four-fifths of the market, and there is a good chance that could only grow next year. WebOS, meanwhile, is left to pick up the scraps. Is that really what HP wants? Furthermore, does HP really think making WebOS open source can change that? WebOS is little more than an also-ran. And it’s about time HP realizes that.