2011 has not been a good year for HP's WebOS tablet operating system. The year began with the company praising the product they had acquired when they bought Palm but there then followed the sudden announcement of the dropping of the TouchPad, the first WebOS tablet only seven weeks after it went on sale. Now there's talk that the company may shut down their WebOS division for good.
According to a report by NeoWin an unnamed HP employee has been quoted as saying "There's a 95 (percent) chance we all get laid off between now and November, and I for one am thinking it's for the best."
In the last couple of months several companies have expressed an interest in buying WebOS, and as a TouchPad owner I can say it's a remarkably capable and usable tablet OS. So far nothing has come of it and HP haven't given any indications that they would wish to sell it.
But could the company just kill it without selling it? While unlikely this is a possibility and it begs the question where does this leave existing TouchPad owners?
Some people will install Android on it, and I suppose this is always the nuclear option for some. Many people however will have no idea how to perform such an operation and will be left with a device that will no longer be supported. In it's simplest form this just means that the operating system won't be refined and developed over time. At it's worst it means that any bugs and flaws in the system that could be exploited by others won't be fixed.
Even if WebOS is sold it will be a very significant amount of time before the new owners can begin rolling out updates. In short this is very bad news for TouchPad owners generally if the rumour turns out to be true.
To add weight to this, HP announced this week that they will be producing Windows 8 tablets for 2012, and we can assume they are already testing prototype hardware now. It's even been rumoured the TouchPad hardware might live on with Windows 8 on board, though this is unlikely.
Of equal concern is what will happen to owners of the HP smartphones that are also running WebOS. These people will need security updates and patches more than tablet owners, because of the direct billing capabilities built into phones. These people will need firm answers from HP, and pretty soon.
HP has previously said it was committed to WebOS, though the company has changed its mind so much in recent months that nobody would really believe them now whatever they said. Only a couple of months ago they were talking about offloading their entire PC division, but now they've decided that they would really rather hang on to it. This is company with serious decision-making issues!
For now we've just had another update to WebOS rolled out. I love my TouchPad and wouldn't want it to be the last. WebOS is extremely capable and has huge amounts of potential. In my view it is quite simply the finest tablet operating system available currently.
It's such a shame then that it's been so poorly managed. Do you have a WebOS phone or tablet? What do you think about this rumour?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.