HP might separate webOS from TouchPad, other hardware
Hewlett-Packard, which surprised the industry reecently by giving the TouchPad a quick hook, apparently is planning to split its webOS business into hardware and software divisions.
E-mails from top HP executives disclosed those plans and were published Sept. 3 by the Web site PreCentral.net. HP plans to split the hardware portion of the business into HP's Personal Systems Group (PSG), headed by Executive Vice President Todd Bradley, and the software portion into the company's Office of Strategy and Technology (OS&T) department, headed by Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Shane Robison.
However, an HP spokesperson declined to confirm the reports and said that the company does not comment on internal communications.
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"HP has said it will discontinue development of webOS hardware in [the fourth quarter of] 2011 and is evaluating options to optimize the value of the software platform. We are currently working through that process," the spokesperson said.
The fate of webOS has been in question since HP last month abruptly discontinued its TouchPad slate device and its smartphone line, although HP is producing one more batch of TouchPads after it cut the price for them to $99 and demand skyrocketed. Both the TouchPad and the company's smartphones run webOS, which HP gained when it acquired Palm Inc. last year for $1.2 billion.
The teams involved in webOS software engineering, developer relations and software product marketing will fall into OS&T, according to Bradley's e-mail, while the remainder of the webOS team will become part of a group within PSG headed by Stephen DeWitt, who was named senior vice president and general manager of the global webOS business unit in July. The fate of PSG, which comprises HP's PC business, also remains unclear, although it appears that HP is leaning toward spinning off that business.
In his e-mail, Robison told employees that HP has no immediate plans to integrate webOS into OS&T: "These teams will continue to operate under their current systems and processes until further notice," he said. As head of OS&T, Robison oversees HP's research and development initiatives.
Robison's message shed little light on what the future holds for the webOS software. Robison merely said the company will investigate how "to leverage the webOS platform and its ecosystem."
Jeffrey Schwartz is executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner and an editor-at-large at Redmond magazine, affiliate publications of Government Computer News.