Should HP license webOS out to other manufacturers?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: June 1, 2011

A few years ago, when the smartphone boom had just begun, several manufacturers and platforms really started to flourish. In the midst of the sudden expansion, Palm aimed to launch themselves back into the race with their web-based platform, webOS. Smooth, polished and remarkably easy to develop for, the software had everything it needed to grow and compete alongside Android. Unfortunately, that isn't quite how things panned out.

Palm has always had a knack for a certain form factor; they have always favored quality, business-oriented devices with a reliable QWERTY keyboard. However, changes to the market, how devices are used and how software interacts with hardware don't exactly warrant a physical keyboard anymore. Instead, the relatively new candybar form factor favors a large display with no physical QWERTY.

Palm found themselves in a situation where they felt hardware keyboards were still necessary while the trending market had other things in mind. Manufacturers like HTC, Motorola and Samsung took note of this and ran with it. To much surprise and little avail, even the keyboard masters, RIM, attempted their own QWERTY-less BlackBerry.

This lack of hardware innovation ultimately led to Palm nosediving and the HP buyout. Problem is, HP appears to be making the same mistake all over again: amazing and beautiful software paired with lackluster hardware. Take the Veer for instance. It definitely has a target market and the device itself isn't all that bad, but the competition isn't focused on putting out phones that "aren't all that bad." HP needs serious, high-end hardware and a new form factor.

There are certainly low-end and mid-range phones outed by most Android and even some Windows Phone manufacturers. But every single one of them (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG...) is more focused on pushing the envelope; they have been releasing phones with jaw dropping specs, killer hardware, and even some fresh form factors. HP, on the other hand, is ruining perfectly good software with mediocre and stagnant hardware.

Up until now, the thought of webOS being licensed out to other manufacturers has only been a dream of tech fiends all around – one that we all had little to no hope of at that. But that all changed when HP CEO, Leo Apotheker, stated that HP wasn't beyond entertaining the idea. To be frank, it's a win-win for everyone and I would be baffled if they failed to recognize that.

HP's webOS (that will always sound weird) has yet to be paired with good, quality hardware. Some of the top manufacturers out there that are building for Android could put some of the more modern and more popular form factors to use and bring choice – arguably Android's biggest selling point – to webOS. This would certainly give the struggling platform a fighting chance for once. Just try imagining webOS on Motorola or HTC hardware without drooling all over your keyboard. Pretty tough, huh?

Also worth noting is that Motorola has had some doubts about Android in the past and was even rumored to be considering their own web-based OS. I don't want to call Moto out or anything, but they don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to software. Maybe webOS on a Motorola device (please Moto, no skins) would be a match made in heaven.

HP has big plans for their acquired software: they have a highly anticipated tablet on the way and plan to released all 2012 computer models with a dose webOS on the side. But their plans for smartphones just aren't big or daring enough. They simply do not have a handle on that market yet. Licensing their software out to manufacturers who obviously do could be the one-way ticket to the top webOS has been dying for.

What say you, webOS fans? Do you want to see the web-based platform on a different manufacturer's hardware or in a different form factor? Or is it perfect the way it is?