HP webOS Decision Imminent: Report

Hewlett-Packard is on the verge of making some key decisions about webOS, according to a new report.

Hewlett-Packard plans on revealing its future webOS strategy in an all-hands employee meeting Oct. 12, according to Apple Insider.

The blog cited unnamed "people familiar with the company's plans" as its source.

Newly minted HP CEO Meg Whitman is reportedly planning to decide this month on whether to divest the company of its PC business. "We have to make a final decision," she reportedly told a conference audience Oct. 4, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. "It's a decision I want to make much faster than my predecessor. I want to make it before the end of October."

If that's the case, then it stands to reason that she would want to make a final decision about webOS at the same time. HP inherited webOS as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010, and quickly moved to create an entire hardware ecosystem based around the operating system, including tablets and smartphones. However, its first product in that ecosystem-the HP TouchPad tablet-proved an anemic seller in its first six weeks on store shelves, leading to HP's brutal decision to terminate its homegrown webOS aspirations.

Despite terminating its hardware plans, HP claimed it would potentially license webOS to other companies. The ejection of CEO Leo Apotheker in favor of Whitman likely won't change the hardware policy-especially since the company has already initiated layoffs in the webOS group-but the fate of the webOS platform itself remains an open question. Any company that takes webOS off HP's hands would likely acquire a host of patents useful in the increasingly litigious mobility space.

Whitman previously sat on HP's board of directors. The former head of eBay, her immediate task is to reassure investors and employees of HP's continued viability after two CEO shakeups in less than two years.

"It is important to bear in mind that HP remains a successful company; it is profitable and growing in a difficult economic climate," Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote in a Sept. 22 research note, adding that: "We believe assuring customers it will retain and nurture its PC business is HP's most logical and likely course of action."

At the time, Whitman indicated that she would make a decision about the PC business by the end of the year, a timetable she seems to have accelerated. If the rumors are true, a webOS decision is imminent, as well.

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