WebOS – Not Dead Yet

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” – WebOS (apologies to Mark Twain!).

Following the ill-fated launch of the HP TouchPad, Hewlett Packard (HP) has offered up one surprise gift after another.

Gift one: When HP TouchPad sales proved to be poor, the computer was quickly discontinued. HP ended up with a glut of the discontinued 9.7 inch tablets in their inventory. So they had a firesale. The TouchPads went on sale for $99 and $149. That’s so much less than the original $499 and $599 price tag (and so much less than any other comparable tablet at the time) it felt like a giveaway. Shoppers certainly responded like it was a giveaway. Stores and sites quickly sold out.

Gift two: Though the tablet was discontinued, HP opted to finish off one last manufacturing run. Many of these TouchPads appeared in stores as combo deals packaged with another computers. But it gets better –  there are reports that firesale priced HP TouchPads may be on the way to eBay tonight – no combo purchase required!

Gift three: When the HP TouchPad was discontinued, it appeared that WebOS, the operating system that HP purchased from Palm for $1.2 billion early last year, would end up discontinued as well. There were many reports of the TouchPad being the death knell for WebOS. It looked like the end of the line for an operating system which had great promise, but whose potential never bore fruit.

But rather than killing off WebOS, HP may have just given it a whole new life. The company, under the new leadership of Meg Whitman, has announced they will make WebOS open source. Basically, while saying they plan to remain an active participant in its development, HP is handing the keys to developers everywhere to let them build and create new programs with it.

Where WebOS will go from here remains to be seen. There is an active WebOS community that may be able to add and grow the operating system. But at this point, HP appears to be designing future devices to run on Windows 8. HP has said they eventually may have a device that WebOS can call ‘home’ again, but it may be a while.

Though the HP TouchPad appeared to be a disaster for HP, at one point they announced they were quitting the computer business all together, Whitman does appear to have HP looking good again. At least in the eyes of consumers, many who have gotten a nice tablet for a small cost. And in the eyes of developers, who are now going to be able to peak and tinker with WebOS. The real news here is not just that WebOS is ‘not dead yet’, but neither is HP.

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Faroh Sauder has spent more than 30 years working as a journalist and educator. He has written on politics, international affairs, civil rights, and consumer education. Now mostly retired, Faroh continues to stay current on tech and consumer issues and reports on his interests here at News For Shoppers.