HP Senior vice president Stephen DeWitt has said that WebOS is "not dead". He confirmed that the platform will continue to be worked on, in spite its recent failed re-launch.
Following the sales failure of the first WebOS tablet, the Touchpad, HP recently announced that it is ending support for the tablet and the WebOS-powered Pre smartphone range. As the only two sets of devices that have used the Palm-developed platform to date, this naturally led to the assumption that WebOS's days were numbered. Not so, according to DeWitt. He says that HP will "continue to evolve it, update and support it. We stand by it."
Every Touchpad owner will be taken "care of", according to DeWitt
Given its use in smartphones and tablets has now been ruled-out, the question is - to what end? DeWitt's answer to that is, at present, a bit vague. He says, "there are going to be appliances of so many different sizes and shapes in the future that are going to require a human interface for data," and that "the whole world isn’t just about tablets and phones."
The last time we checked, it more-or-less is at present. DeWitt did also point towards applications outside of the consumer tech sphere though, hinting at business uses in the retail, finance and transportation sectors. Unfortunately, that means we might not get a look in, unless HP gets in bed with Tesco to jam it into their self-service checkouts.
HP's ongoing strategy is to make WebOS open, rather than restricted like Apple's iOS - the poster child of the closed approach. However, that'll count for little in commercial terms if HP can't offer something Google's Android OS doesn't. At present, we can't pick out any such stand-out thing in WebOS's feature roster, as great as its visually-intuitive multi-tasking is.
The Pre 3 - looks rather like the Pre and Pre 2, doesn't it?
WebOS has underachieved commercially ever since its launch in 2009, within the original Palm Pre. By the time it hit shelves, Apple's iPhone 3G and a family of Android devices already had a strong foothold in the expanding smartphone market. In spite of decent hardware and impressive software, the Palm Pre failed to make an impact.
WebOS's chances were given a boost in 2010 when HP bought the ailing Palm, its creator, for $1.2 billion in April. Less than 18 months on, the sale of WebOS - Palm's key asset - is being hinted at by DeWitt. The potential golden egg is a dud, it would seem.
HP will apparently "take care of every TouchPad customer," according to DeWitt, but exactly what form this compensation will take is unknown at present. We're still holding out for that £49 HP Touchpad fire sale here in the UK. It'll make for one helluva powerful digital photo frame.