So you have a competent smartphone operating system, an engineering team that, with the right inducement, could stay with the OS, and a rather fluid market looking for options. What will HP do with WebOS next? Let’s have some pointless speculative fun over the next few paragraphs.
Facebook buys the whole operation.
Probably a long shot, and built on the speculation that Zuckerberg and co. are working on a Facebook phone. They certainly have some raw data (via Three in the UK), and acquiring a bundle of software engineers, an OS that is built on HTML5 and web technologies, with (you assume) a working relationship with hardware manufacturers. the question remains whether Facebook could sell better than HP, but they’d be in a far better place to monetise the handsets through Facebook Credits, advertising, and the whole social graph. Chances on this one? Low but at least it would make sense.
The patents go on Ebay
Most likely the jewels will be hawked around – there are a bundle of patents available to the highest bidder, various tranches of IP, and I’d expect the Linked In profiles of all the Engineer to be up to date. Broken up is the most likely fate.
Christmas comes early for the open source movement
Yes Android is open (Go Andy!), but a people are finding out, there’ a lot of kinks along that road. So what if HP decided to go for a scorched earth? Engineering time would need to be found to clean up the code and make it suitable for public consumption, but imagine if WebOS was suddenly available to everyone. Android is closely tied to the Google ecosystem so could never be 100% open, Symbian is out there, but Nokia has kept back a lot of the more useful applications. There is no ‘build it youself’ OS out there.
It’s a very very low chance, but it would be just another crazy step in the smartphone world over the last few weeks and months.
David Potter’s chequebook opens up 20 years later
Back in the mid-nineties Palm had a number of options to it – it sold and went with 3Com, but one option would have been to be bought by Psion. And while that company has had an even rougher time of it, it’s still around, making PDAs for Enterprise as Psion Teklogic. Specialising in lower volume runs, could they swing in and take WebOS and build up a boutique range of smartphones? (Hey I did say these would be fun!)
HTC become the primary licencee
To my mind this is a strong contender. With problems in the house of Android and Google hitching Motorola to their side, the major Andoird players need to check their cupboards. Yes they could swing to Windows Phone ,but Nokia’s the big player there. Samsung do have a reserve option in Bada, ZTE are churning out low cost handsets so won’t be that worried about any high end device dominance… but what does HTC have? Exactly. If they’re careful they can avoid burning a bridge with Google, but if HTC want to move up from simple box shifting, then WebOS could be one strategy.
What will really happen?
Who knows. I suspect the answer will be not much. The last thing HP need is another company making a success of WebOS when they didn’t. That could be muted if it was a simple licencee program and a sucessful partner, but that has a lot of support needs and I don’t think HP are moving in that direction. expect lots of noise, some smart ideas never followed through on, and no more WebOS devices.