Ina Fried

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HP’s Apotheker: We Struck Out With webOS, but Maybe Someone Else Wants a Swing

HP divest

If that was HP’s pitch to find a buyer for webOS, it might want to work on it a bit.

In a conference call with analysts, CEO Léo Apotheker talked about all of the ground that Hewlett-Packard failed to gain and how fast-moving the marketplace is. Earlier on Thursday, HP said it was getting out of the webOS hardware business and exploring what to do with the software.

“We see too long a ramp-up,” Apotheker said on the call, which is still going on.

But in the next breath he suggested maybe someone else might want to try out the innovative, differentiated software.

CFO Cathie Lesjak largely reiterated Apotheker’s dual message, but added some grim financial numbers to the mix, indicating that the webOS unit was the cause of hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and threatened to cause an even bigger loss next quarter had the company continued to move forward with its strategy.

Not that long ago, of course, HP saw all kinds of options for the software, promising to put it on all manner of PCs and printers, not to mention tablets and phones.

Just what HP is trying to do with webOS in terms of selling it or licensing it is not clear. Richard Kerris, the former Apple executive brought in by HP to head developer outreach efforts, held out hope a buyer might be found.

“(WebOS) is an awesome software platform and now we can explore the best hardware partner for it,” Kerris said in a Twitter posting.

Update: In the question-and-answer session, Apotheker suggested that the company really isn’t sure what the future of the software might be, saying it is open to “all possible business models from licensing to any other possibility.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik