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2/16/2012
10:24 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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HP's Whitman Warns On Android, Optimistic On WebOS

Google has said over and over that Android will remain an open platform. HP CEO Meg Whitman isn't so sure.

When Google announced its intent to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, there was an immediate fear that Google would close the OS and work only with Motorola moving forward. Other hardware makers voiced support for the deal publicly, but you can be sure they were cursing behind closed doors. Ever since, Google has said over and over that Android will remain an open platform. HP CEO Meg Whitman isn't so sure.

Speaking to attendees of the HP Global Partner conference in Las Vegas, reports PC World, Whitman contended that "the industry needs another OS," and went on to suggest that Google may change its mind once it owns Motorola. This potential allowed Whitman to talk up the appeal of its own webOS, which it recently decided to launch as an open source project.

Whitman maintains that webOS could remain an important player over the long term. Though it will take time for webOS's full potential as an open source project to be realized, she said that HP will sit in silent support of its mobile platform as it continues to take shape. HP is still excited about webOS's prospects and will continue to contribute to its development.

[ Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility has been approved by U.S. and European regulators. Read more at Google Motorola Deal Approved. ]

WebOS was developed by the now-defunct Palm, which HP acquired in 2010. WebOS floundered under HP's ownership, and last August the company announced that it would cease making webOS smartphones and tablets--mere weeks after launching the webOS-powered TouchPad. The company announced its intent to open source the platform in December. Since then, it has begun making individual components available to the community, though the entire OS isn't expected to become available until September of this year.

Whitman is likely wrong about Android. It would be suicide for Google to close off Android and could spark a huge legal war between Google and its hardware partners. Google is activating more than 750,000 new Android devices each and every day. Why would it want to harm that number? Motorola may make decent products, but Samsung is outselling it like mad the world over with its own Android devices.

Were Google to close off Android, it wouldn't just be shooting itself in the foot, it would be lopping off both legs and letting them bleed out.

The idea that the mobile industry needs webOS to stick around is also a bit of a folly. The platform failed for a reason: there are stronger alternatives already in the market. If webOS really had a place in the mobile ecosystem, Palm would have been more successful with it.

There's been a ridiculous amount of consolidation in the platform space. We've seen Symbian, MeeGo, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and webOS all go away. In their place, we have Android, BlackBerry OS, iOS, and Windows Phone. The market is having a hard enough time supporting these four, as BlackBerry and Windows Phone are struggling up against Android and iOS. What use is webOS at the moment? Though I don't doubt the creative uses to which the open source community will put it, unless it gets major backing from a hardware vendor (something it has already lost) it doesn't have a significant chance of re-entering the market.

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