Ina Fried

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HP: webOS Still Coming to PCs and Printers, Pre3 Launching in “Limited” Markets

Even as the rest of the world is writing the obituary of webOS, Hewlett-Packard insists the software has a bright future. It’s just not clear what that future is.

In an interview on Monday, webOS chief Stephen DeWitt told AllThingsD that the company is continuing to invest in the software even as it stops making webOS tablets and phones.

“Today we are the only ones making webOS devices,” said DeWitt. “What tomorrow will bring, that’s open to speculation.”

In any case, asking the world to wait while HP figures out what to do is a tall order. The company was having a tough enough time recruiting developers and customers when it was fully committed. Asking outside developers to keep investing in a platform with an uncertain device future seems a tough sell, to put it mildly.

And of course, the world of phones and devices is not sitting still, with Apple and Google rapidly advancing their software.

“Right now you have two behemoths,” DeWitt said. “Nothing is going to change next Thursday. You know the two big ecosystems that are out there.”

Still, DeWitt maintains that webOS is not dead.

“At the end of the day, webOs is going to be a popular platform on a variety of connected devices,” said DeWitt.

Ask for specifics, though, and things get a little cloudy.

Part of the challenge for HP in being clearer is that the company itself doesn’t really know what the future of webOS is. Although discussions began internally some time ago, DeWitt said, the company is still evaluating whether to license webOS to various device makers, partner with a single company, shift the focus away from phones and tablets or some other option entirely.

“We’ve had a number of discussions and there’s a lot of interest around webOS,” said DeWitt , who was only a month into his job when HP made its blockbuster announcements last week.

DeWitt did clarify a few points during a telephone interview on Monday.

The company still plans to put webOS on PCs and printers, for example.

“We are continuing with our webOS-on-Windows work,” DeWitt said, adding that the company will honor its previous commitments, but declining to say when we will see the software show up on PCs and printers. “We’ll announce exactly what the rollout is when we are ready to.”

HP also plans to issue further updates for both its Veer phone and for the TouchPad.

The company is also doing a “limited” launch of the Pre3 phone.

“Pre3 is being launched in very selective areas,” DeWitt said. “We’re not broadly launching Pre3.”

The tiny Veer smartphone, which was launched on AT&T earlier this year, will continue to be sold, supported and updated, DeWitt said.

“The Veer is a great product for its niche and I think it has shown that through its results,” he said.

As for those who bought TouchPad devices prior to the fire sale that started this weekend, DeWitt says that they will be taken care of, with more details to come from retailers and HP.

DeWitt acknowledged that HP could have done a better job of communicating its plans.

“I think the reaction to the news has been intense,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of communicating more clearly what was shared with the public last week.”

In other words, webOS may look mortally wounded, but HP insists it’s just a flesh wound.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google