HP confirms WebOS smartphones coming soon

An HP exec ended months of rumor about the demise or future of WebOS -- HP will launch new WebOS smartphones in early 2011

To paraphrase American author Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of WebOS have been greatly exaggerated. An HP executive has confirmed that new WebOS smartphones will be introduced by HP in early 2011.

Following the fall of Palm, and its subsequent purchase by HP we have been left to speculate on the future of WebOS. Despite anemic sales ultimately leading to the fall of Palm, the WebOS mobile platform is innovative and quite capable of competing against the Apple iPhone and the vast portfolio of Android smartphones.

A Reuters report quotes HP senior vice president Eric Cador stating "You will see us coming early next year with new phones." That isn't much, but its the first acknowledgement from HP regarding the future of WebOS, or its intentions in the smartphone arena.

WebOS loyalists assert that the mobile platform isn't just comparable to competing platforms like Apple iOS or Google Android -- it's superior. In many ways, the fall of WebOS is like the demise of other technologies that have been technically superior, yet lost the marketing war and ultimately faded into oblivion. A few examples are the Sega Dreamcast game console, the IBM OS/2 desktop operating system, or more recently the HD DVD format.

When HP purchased Palm, it was really purchasing WebOS. Without the intellectual property of the WebOS mobile platform, Palm would have had a difficult time finding a suitor at all--much less one willing to spend $1.2 billion on the company. Cador acknowledged that WebOS was a key element in the decision to acquire Palm.

With WebOS, HP can now engage in a mobility strategy. HP is a tech giant and leader in areas like servers and PC hardware, as well as IT services, but it is conspicuously absent from the rapidly evolving trend toward mobile computing. HP can use WebOS as a foundation to venture into smartphones and tablets and carve out its place in the market.

Prior to the launch of the Apple iPad, a Windows 7 based HP Slate tablet was rumored to be in the works. Since then, and particularly following the purchase of Palm, there have been reports that the Windows 7 tablet concept is dead and that HP is focusing its resources on a WebOS tablet instead (or in addition depending on the rumor).

The rumor mill can now shift gears, though, from "if" there will be new WebOS smartphones, to "when" we can expect them or how they will compare with rival smartphone platforms, or whether HP will be more successful with WebOS smartphones than Palm was.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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