Hewlett-Packard may have dumped the TouchPad in history’s dustbin of new tech, but the company apparently hasn’t abandoned the idea of producing tablets loaded with the webOS operating system.
That news comes from HP CEO Meg Whitman, who, when asked by The Verge whether HP planned to manufacture more hardware running webOS, replied, “The answer to that is yes but what I can’t tell you is whether that will be in 2012 or not.”
She also alluded to a reconstituted webOS team working “in a quite different direction than we’ve been taking it in the past.” Tablets apparently remain a possibility. “I would think tablets,” she added. “I do not believe we will be in the smartphone business again.”
HP announced Dec. 9 that it will make webOS, which it inherited as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in 2010, totally open source. The company will continue to invest in the platform and work to prevent it from fragmenting, although the extent of any monetary investment remains unclear.
HP had high hopes when it rolled out the TouchPad in July, with then-CEO Leo Apotheker glibly predicting that webOS would soon find its way from the company’s tablets and smartphones to desktops and laptops. However, within six weeks of the TouchPad’s July 1 release in the United States, anemic sales drove HP to terminate the project, along with its nascent smartphone efforts.
On Dec. 11, HP sold off the last batch of TouchPads via its eBay portal, at a severely reduced price.
HP did consider selling off webOS, but Whitman ultimately decided the open-source alternative made the most sense for the company: “As you go through these structures, you look at the pros and cons of the alternatives, and this was one that was affordable for HP to invest in in the long haul, but also had a great opportunity to fill a market need.” Her measures of success for the open-source webOS will include whether developers are gravitating toward the platform, and if other hardware manufacturers begin using it to build their own devices.
Open-source or not, HP isn’t depending solely on webOS for its tablet efforts. During an Oct. 27 conference call, Whitman suggested that HP would partner with Microsoft for a set of Windows 8 tablets, which would succeed the Windows 7 tablets the company already markets.