HP Should Open Source WebOS

Best value for the 1.8 billion they paid for it

After paying almost Two Billion Dollars for Palm and its WebOS, HP announced that it is exiting the mobile phone and tablet business yesterday.  After dumping who knows how many more millions of dollars in developing and marketing their still new WebOs tablet. What a colossal waste of time, money and resources.

But there is still something that HP could do to salvage some self-respect, value and good karma from this debacle. They could open source WebOS.  There might be some hardware makers who would love to have it. Maybe current Android hand set manufacturers worried about Google's buy of Motorola for instance.

Before we discuss open source WebOS, lets discuss what is going on at HP.  What is going on an HP? Are they so obsessed with recasting themselves as IBM west that they are willing to flush billions and billions of dollars?

After spending almost two billion on Palm and then probably another billion or two on developing and bringing to market their new tablet, they are going to kill it off after a few months? Would Apple or Google or any successful company throw the towel in on such an expensive product launch so quickly. What did HP think, that they would launch this tablet and it was going to overtake Apple or Google right away?

I can’t believe that this decision was made solely on the tablet’s sales numbers. This was a decision made that they could not compete with Apple and Google with consumers in mobile. What a shame that just when everyone seems to concur that mobile is going to rule HP decides it is a good time to get out of that business.

HP is not getting out of just mobile either. They want to sell off their PC business to buy a database search company for 10 billion dollars. Hewlett and Packard must be turning over in their graves! Can you imagine no HP personal computers? What’s next, get out of printers (I personally hate HP printers and don’t use them anymore, but that is another story)?

HP’s CEO Leo Apotheker is really trying to re­make the company in his own image.  But HP is not SAP. Is he killing the patient in order to save a foot? I have serious doubts about HP’s future as the largest tech company going forward with this strategy.

But HP’s loss could be open source’s gain. Google’s Motorola buy opens a window for another open source mobile OS. While some Android companies may look at Microsoft, an open source WebOS could allow these hardware manufacturers to have their cake and let them eat it too.

An open source WebOS could also attract developers who may have been wary of working on the OS while HP owned it. A critical mass of developers and a few hardware suppliers and WebOS would be well on its way.

HP is only going to let WebOS die a silent death. Even if they are going to use it in printers, having it open sourced would not be a factor for them on that front. On the other hand, the good will HP garners by open sourcing WebOS at least allows them to save some face on this otherwise disastrous adventure.

So Mr. Apotheker if you don’t want to use WebOS in the mobile world, set it free. Let the open source community see if the old Palm OS is as good and has as much promise as so many of us thought it did.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.