Boy, the mobile industry sure has been interesting lately. In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen HP essentially give up and walk away from their entire mobile operation, discontinuing the development of WebOS and slashing what may very well have been a promising future in the mobile industry. While I can’t exactly say I don’t understand where HP came from in this move (competition in the mobile industry is stiff right now and the company likely has a better shot occupying a more vacant industry), it does disappoint me to see that HP has gotten to the low point that it has in the mobile sector. I mean, the TouchPad was a great device and could have gone great places, but now it’s nothing more than a heavily discounted piece of junk that even BeatWeek is putting very little value in.
But all is not so grim in the mobile industry. At the same time that we’re seeing HP fall to the ground in the mobile sector we’re seeing huge competition between rivals Apple and Google, two companies that have managed to steal the technology spotlight in recent years, going head-to-head against one-another over patents and fair competition. With this, Google has made what I see to be a very hypocritical move in buying a handful of patents from IBM just days after accusing patent hoarding of “gumming up innovation.” Even more groundbreaking, Google has managed to shake things up quite a bit by buying Motorola Mobility; a move that could very well put the company on track to develop and mass-produce its own mobile hardware, and one that many like myself believe will sour existing business relationships with hardware developers and ultimately cause many manufacturers to re-evaluate their options.
This is where things get interesting, though. What we’re essentially looking at is the fact that HP has made it very evident that they’re jumping ship in the mobile industry, thus having very little use in their mobile operating system (WebOS), at the same time that a handful of hardware manufactures are likely scratching their heads and pondering their other options now that Google has made it evident that they will be getting into the hardware game as well. Really, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the point I’m trying to make here.
While I’ve discussed companies such as RIM potentially being acquired simply for their mobile operating systems before, I honestly think that the potential for such deals actually going through are very minimal. As I’ve said before, it makes no sense to buy and take over a standing company only to acquire legacy code that would be more of a challenge to implement than it would be worth. But with WebOS, the tables really are turned. HP doesn’t seem to want WebOS anymore, and chances are that if they were offered a fair price for it the company would be more than happy to part with it. After all, if they’re getting out of the mobile industry WebOS is no use to them in collecting figurative dust.
It wasn’t very long ago that I wrote about hardware manufactures potentially licensing WebOS from HP. At the time, HP seemed to be invested in making WebOS a competitive product on the mobile market. But now, though, I wouldn’t expect any right-minded company to license usage rights to WebOS from HP seeing as how it’s probably not going to be maintained anyway. But what would be wrong with another company purchasing WebOS altogether and taking over development on their own? I mean, HP bought WebOS from Palm just a few years ago, so what’s to say that a similar sale couldn’t go through now? Asides from the obvious drawbacks of being the third owner of a product that has had no real success, I honestly think that a motivated buyer could make WebOS go places. And quite frankly, I think that HP could have made WebOS exponentially more successful if they had vested more effort into marketing and development.
Personally, I’ve been hearing some people discuss the possibility of Samsung buying WebOS, citing the fact that Samsung is up to something with their $9.3 billion investment in upcoming research and development. While that’s a great concept to think about, I just can’t see Samsung doing it. Why in the world would a company that’s investing billions of dollars into research and development even think about taking the “easy” way out and simply buying an operating system that has proven absolutely nothing?