HP pulls webOS plug

Now it's Android and MeeGo in the mobile Linux arena

There's one less Linux-based mobile OS in the market today, after today's stunning announcement that HP will be dropping all operating for webOS devices, both the TouchPad and all webOS-based phones.

The news, which hit the wires just this afternoon, is a sharp reversal HP's commitment to webOS, despite continued lackluster performance in the marketplace.

[Tablet deathmatch: HP TouchPad vs. Apple iPad 2 and The tablet specs that matter]

Just this week, All Things D reported that Best Buy was having a lot of trouble selling the TouchPad device, with only 25,000 of 270,000 devices sold. And that 25,000 might end up being high, depending on returns after today's surprise announcement.

There was lot about the TouchPad that had it going on: a nine-inch screen, a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, and webOS itself, which many reviewers regard as the device's most powerful asset.

But, as has been said so many times, a lack of apps plagues the platform. HP developers touted nearly 300 tablet-ready webOS apps, but that pales in comparison to the number of iPad-ready apps that have been launched.

Desktop Linux suffered from this problem for years, and is only now able to start asserting itself with an application ecosystem large enough to attract users. Android and iOS do not have this problem, but alas, webOS did, and it may have contributed to its sudden death.

HP may have other problems to worry about--that same press release indicated that it would be spinning off the entire PC unit, and their third-quarter revenue reported this week was a bit short of analyst's expectations.

Considering the TouchPad was only on the market since July 1, it might seem premature to pull the plug after only 49 days of sales. But, considering the meteoric rise of iPad sales in similarly short spans of time, HP may have realized that if you don't go big in the tablet market, you might as well go home.

Is this the end of webOS completely? For that we will need to see. I had spoken to HP staffers during OSCON (who gave no indication that this was coming, that's for sure), who mentioned future plans such as integrating webOS on all HP devices for a completely integrated user experience. Now that the PC, phone, and tablet devices will be out of the picture, that doesn't leave much on which to put webOS. Perhaps webOS can be open sourced and set free for other projects to use.

As a former Palm user, it's a touch sad to see this happen, because it feels like the real end of Palm now.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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