Monday, August 22, 2011

HP and WebOS, My Speculative Predictions

hp-webos-logo1As we all know, as of this passed Thursday, HP announced the discontinuation of their WebOS devices.  This includes its various smartphones, and the HP TouchPad.  Since then, we have seen a literal fire sale of the TouchPad for a mere $99.99 online and in brick-&-mortar stores such as Best Buy.  In a short time frame, it appears the devices literally sold OUT!  This would easily make it one of the most popular tablets out right now due to the shear number of them in the hands of eager consumers that wanted to jump into the tablet world, without the huge investment.  So, what are my speculations and predictions?  Keep reading!

Right now, a lot of analysts are expecting HP to do one of two or three things.  Kill off WebOS entirely, Spin off the consumer division that WebOS is a part of, or sell WebOS and its patents to the highest bidder.  My bet is that HP won’t spin off WebOS, but I do expect the consumer division to be spun off to another company that either has a foothold already, or one that is looking to get one.  This includes the HP home PC market.  Who would buy it?  Who knows!  Lenovo is a name being thrown around that would easily benefit from such a purchase.  Foxconn, the makers of most of HP’s home PC’s and laptops is another.  Why Foxconn?  Simply because they already have the manufacturing facilities in place, why not sell it themselves, too?

However, why won’t HP spin off, or sell WebOS?  Patents.  Patents are bread and butter these days.  With such patents, HP has the ability to charge licensing fee’s to other companies to be able to utilize technologies that Palm/HP innovated.  On top of that, HP has the ability to license WebOS out to phone manufactures.  However, this probably won’t be a top marketing concept due to the popularity of Android.

Why do I believe HP doesn’t look to be selling off WebOS and the patents?  HP stated on Facebook, and in a press release that they intend to keep the WebOS Market open indefinitely.  Why, you wonder?  If HP is supposedly killing off WebOS, why keep the market going for any amount of time?  First, there are a good number of people that now own TouchPads.  There are also a great deal of people that own WebOS powered smartphones.  These people will continue to want access to their apps.  Also, HP continues to make money off of in market app purchases.  Why miss out on that opportunity?  However, an “indefinite” time frame is still lofty for something that looks short term.  One would easily expect something on the lines of maybe two years tops for a discontinued, unsupported OS.  Because of the status of the Market, I expect HP to not be selling off WebOS.  I see them licensing it out.

If, by chance, that HP does decide to sell WebOS with the patents, we should expect a hellacious bidding war from Microsoft, RIM, Apple, and Google.  Why?  If Google were to win these patents, they would have a giant amount of “Lawyer Repellent” at their disposal in conjunction to the 25,000+ patents they secured from the Motorola buy out.  This would help solidify the Android ecosystem for at least a good ten years.  I wouldn’t expect any of these four companies to want WebOS for anything else, other than that…unless Google found a way to take the Linux code in WebOS and integrate it into a future version of Android.

Now, this is NOT a rumor, or anything of that nature.  This statement is purely hypothetical speculation on my part.  What if HP is clearing stock on the “failed” TouchPad to move the WebOS platform entirely to a software stand point only?  What if HP is looking to be the next “Microsoft” for the mobile industry?  They continue to produce the OS, and leave the hardware side to hardware companies?  Again, this plays into the licensing aspect.  I don’t see WebOS staying a smartphone OS though.  I fully expect to see HP push WebOS as a powerful tablet/laptop/PC OS.  If that is the case, they will have immediate competition from Android, as Honeycomb really shows potential to be a strong contender.  I can see Android on a touch screen desktop before long.  It screams to be put on something more powerful than a tablet!  Watch out Windows, WebOS and Android are coming.

In the long run, HP has the ability to make a lot of money off of licensing WebOS, and the patents associated with it.  In the short run, HP stands to make a good deal of money from selling WebOS, and the various Palm patents in a bidding war.  Either way, HP stands to make a good hunk of change from either choice.

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