Hewlett-Packard will divide its webOS arm into two separate units that will report to different areas of the company, according to two leaked memos that have made their way onto the Web.
HP acquired webOS as part of its takeover of Palm in 2010. The manufacturer originally had big plans for loading the operating system onto a variety of devices, including tablets, smartphones, desktops and laptops. Following anemic sales performance by the TouchPad tablet, however, HP made the radical decision to end its efforts in webOS hardware.
Now, HP's webOS software assets will find their way into the arms-however welcoming-of its Office of Strategy and Technology. The other parts of the webOS corporate infrastructure, presumably including its hardware interests, will continue as part of the Personal Systems Group, which manufactures HP's PCs, and which likely will be spun off into its own entity under the terms of the company's new strategy.
"We have decided that we'll be most effective in these efforts by having the teams in webOS software engineering, worldwide developer relations and webOS software product marketing join the Office of Strategy and Technology," Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, wrote in an email circulated to the webOS developer team. "The remainder of the webOS team, under Stephen DeWitt, will continue to report into PSG."
That email was reprinted by the blog Precentral.net, which included a similar email from Shane Robison, HP's executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer, outlining the same strategy.
As the blog pointed out in the Sept. 3 posting accompanying those emails, Palm split itself apart along similar lines in 2003, peeling off respective hardware and software divisions. It was, apparently, a "disaster."
Although HP plans to shut down its TouchPad manufacturing capabilities, the company plans on issuing a final, limited run on the devices in coming weeks. After it first announced an end to the TouchPad, and slashed the tablet's price in a bid to clear out inventory, consumers stampeded to claim a respectable touch-screen device at a steal.
Flooding the market with additional TouchPads could boost the value of webOS if HP decides to sell off the asset, according to an analyst. A "larger installed base of TouchPad and webOS devices should increase the value of webOS in a potential sale," Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a research note widely circulated on Barron's and other financial Websites. "We believe logical buyers may include Samsung Electronics, Research In Motion, HTC, Amazon.com, Facebook, Sony, Microsoft and others."