In a surprising move, Hewlett-Packard announced on Thursday that it plans to shut down operations for its webOS division. This news coincides with the company’s decision to “explore strategic alternatives” for its PC unit, be it selling or spinning off the business.
The world’s number one PC manufacturer brought in revenue of $32.1 billion last quarter, but it wasn’t enough. HP plans to wind down operations for webOS–specifically the Pre, TouchPad, and Veer product lines–by the end of the fourth quarter. Whether or not this refers to the end of HP’s fiscal year in September or the end of the calendar year was not specified. Depending on what happens, the Pre 3 might not be released in the US.
HP doesn’t intend to completely shut down webOS, which the company obtained as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm last year. “HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.” Stephen DeWitt, Vice President of the webOS Global Business Unit, repeatedly reassured employees that “we are not walking away from webOS.” HP most likely intends to license the mobile operating system to other hardware manufacturers like Samsung and HTC. Of course, webOS would have to undergo some modifications, as it was designed for a specific Qualcomm chipset.
The discontinuation of webOS marks the second smartphone operating system to pull out of the market this year–Nokia is phasing out Symbian in favor of Windows Phone–leaving the mobile market with just four contenders: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Phone. It will be interesting to see what happens.