HP and webOS: But They Seemed So Happy Together!

Published on August 18, 2011
by John Paczkowski

“It’s our first day together, but it’s already abundantly clear to everyone who’s been involved in bringing the two companies together that great things are in store. The combination of Palm’s trailblazing webOS and Hewlett-Packard’s strength as the leading provider of everything from PCs, laptops, and printers to home electronics and enterprise systems promises an amazing roadmap of new tools for your mobile and web-connected future.”

Those words, posted to the official Palm blog a little over a year ago, are rich with irony today given the news that HP is pulling the plug on its webOS hardware business and mulling the divestiture or spinoff of its PC business.

How quickly things change, right?

“With HP’s full backing and global strengths, I’m confident that webOS will be able to reach its full potential. This agreement will accelerate the development of this incredible platform with new resources, scale and support from a world-respected brand.”

former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, July 1, 2010

Particularly for HP, which just weeks ago was talking up the importance of webOS to its core business, reiterating a message delivered by HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley back in Feburary at the company’s big TouchPad unveiling.

“We have a commitment to expand the webOS platform to other devices and form factors you haven’t seen before,” Bradley said then. “And we’re going to do this across the broadest base of devices we can. … I’m pleased to announce today that we plan to extend webOS to the HP PC. Introducing webOS to our PC customers later this year will drastically expand the platform, for us and for our developers.”

What happened between February and August? Hell, what happened between July and August, after Bradley told AllThingsD’s Ina Fried that HP was committed to a broad webOS lineup? WebOS was supposed to be HP’s big consumer platform push. It was supposed to give us super powers! And the TouchPad was supposed to be Russell Brand’s butler (see video below)!

Evidently, HP drastically rethought that commitment. Which raises the question: Was Palm worth the $1.2 billion HP paid for it? It certainly doesn’t look that way today.

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