HP gathered its employees for a big meeting about webOS to say it still isn't sure what to do with the platform.
People are usually equipped to handle good news and bad news. When it comes to uncertainty though, we generally handle that poorly, filling our time with worry, speculation, or worse. HP put its WebOS division employees firmly in that last category Tuesday during a company meeting where the message was "we don't have a message right now."
Reuters reported Tuesday that HP was contemplating the sale of its WebOS division for a few hundred million dollars, which is a bargain compared to the $1.2 billion paid in early 2010. When you count the money that was spent after the acquisition on developing and marketing the TouchPad tablet line, including the firesale which resulted when the entire project was canceled after just a few weeks, it isn't unreasonable to think HP will have lost over $1 billion, even if it manages to sell the company for $200 million to $300 million.
Newly appointed HP CEO Meg Whitman told a gathering of employees ... nothing. She said "It's really important to me to make the right decision, not the fast decision." A final decision, supposedly, is to come in the next few weeks.
Way to calm nerves and boost morale HP! The company truly doesn't know what it is doing with this platform. Let's recap:
-- Announced purchase of Palm and webOS in April 2010 for $1.2 billion.
-- Veer smartphone released in May 2011 on AT&T. No significant updates for Pre and Pixi line.
-- TouchPad tablet released in July 2011.
-- TouchPad tablet killed in August 2011 along with the Veer and other smartphones still in the market.
Basically, HP did less with WebOS than Palm ever did.
A sale would seem to be beneficial for the platform, but I don't think it will work. Whitman said in the meeting that getting back into the phone business is too complicated. I am not sure about complicated, but it is very expensive. Microsoft has been trying to get Windows Phone off the ground for a year. Even with a half billion dollars in marketing spend, WP7 still has single-digit market share after a year.
The tablet market isn't much less expensive. You can be sure hundreds of millions have been spent by tablet manufacturers trying to crack the iPad market, sometimes erroneously referred to as the tablet market.
If a behemoth with deep pockets like HP wasn't willing to spend its way into either of these markets, what other company would want anything to do with it? The only company that comes to mind that makes any sense is Amazon. Does Amazon need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars though to keep its Kindle line of e-readers fresh? It can probably do so for a lot less by using Android and just extending its licensing agreement with Microsoft.
Hopefully in a few weeks we--and HP employees--will know the fate of the division. Or HP could just hold another company meeting to let everyone know it's still thinking about it.
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