MAKER OF EXPENSIVE PRINTER INK HP has decided to give up on its WebOS devices, sell its PC business and buy enterprise search firm Autonomy.
The trio of announcements puts HP's future in the balance after poor results in its efforts in the competitive tablet market failed to lure consumers with its alternative WebOS operating system.
Tim Jennings, chief IT analyst at Ovum said, "From a strategy perspective, it brings huge unpredictability with question marks for HP customers. It's a concerning time [for HP]."
A large reason for ditching WebOS seems to be down to the firm's tablet, the Touchpad, which HP launched last month in the UK. By halting sales of its Touchpad tablet and Pre 3 smartphone, HP has now wasted the time and money it invested in buying Palm and developing the WebOS operating system.
HP CEO Leo Apotheker said, "Our TouchPad has not been gaining enough traction in the marketplace. We have made the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the WebOS hardware operations."
We suspected something was up after hearing that retailer Best Buy had 200,000 Touchpads that is wanted to return to HP. Meanwhile, HP had been saying that it wanted to get WebOS onto desktop PCs.
The Touchpad was somewhat late to the tablet party, with many rival devices having been launched earlier on Google's Android OS, therdfore offering an alternative to Apple's Ipad. This meant that Android had already grabbed a decent market share in the tablet space by the time HP released the Touchpad and developers were hard to come by for WebOS. This resulted in a serious lack of applications for users, fewer than 10,000 compared to Android's 300,000 plus. Users were also likely to be wary of jumping to a new OS that was unproven.
Jennings said, "It's clear that HP was too late coming to the market with WebOS. It was only going to be in last place to big names like Apple and Google."
On the smartphone side of things, HP's WebOS device, the Pre 3, has only just become available in the UK, but it was received with a notable lack of interest from mobile operators, with none selling the handset directly. The HP smartphone also took a long time to come to market.
HP might have put its time and money down the drain by not giving WebOS more of a chance. Carolina Milanesi, a research VP at Gartner said, "From a WebOS perspective it seems to be that HP had initially underestimated how much effort it would take to build an ecosystem around the platform that they bought from Palm. The launch of the Touchpad also proved that prices on the hardware side would be very much under pressure and there would be little opportunity for a high margin business."
"One would argue that HP has not given WebOS a fair chance given how little time they have had with it. On the other hand we have always said that building an ecosystem would be hard without the volume and volume is not coming without the ecosystem."