Back in April of last year, HP won the bid for Palm, hoping to breathe life into the web-based platform. Palm originally introduced webOS in the middle of 2009; it initially caught the eye of techies and journalists around the web, but was quickly outnumbered and backseated by the dozens of Android-powered smartphones. With intentions of resurrecting the still youthful operating system, HP has since detailed plans of including webOS on PCs, printers, tablets, phones and pretty much anywhere else that they can find a use for the mobile platform.
HP has already outed two mobile devices here in the States this year. The Veer was released to a much disinterested audience and the TouchPad made its debut early last month. Despite being highly-anticipated by many, the TouchPad has been met with poor sales, even after a price drop. The WiFi-only 16GB version launched at $499.99 and is now permanently available for $399.99. Best Buy still claims they have had trouble moving the units. According to AllThingsD, the men in blue bought 270,000 TouchPad units and have only managed to sell through 25,000 since launch. Best Buy is so unhappy with the performance of the webOS tablets that they have reportedly told HP they are unwilling to pay for the tabs and want HP to take them back. Ouch.
Of HP's 2011 lineup, only the Pre 3 remains. And many of us have actually been awaiting the third generation Pre with hopes of it actually bringing webOS back into the limelight – a savior for the webOS brand. It doesn't appear as if that's going to happen this round, if ever, as the Pre 3 has silently launched in the UK and the mobile operators there remain unimpressed by webOS.
The Inquirer was told by Orange that “it won't be selling the Pre 3 in its stores or online but through indirect channels instead.” Other UK mobile operators such as O2 and Vodafone also confirmed that they, too, will pass on stocking and selling the Pre 3 directly. Nor can the webOS device be found on The Carphone Warehouse website. That said, the Pre 3 is up for purchase through indirect sales and straight from HP's UK website. Still, I can only imagine what is going through Leo Apotheker's head right now. Buyer's remorse?
The Pre 3 is slated to hit in the States sometime in the near future, but its fate already seems pretty grim. “The Pre 3's predecessors, the Palm Pre and Pre 2 which were launched before HP bought smartphone maker Palm, did not do well either,” says Chris Martin of the Inquirer.
I figure the chances of Stateside carriers following in the footsteps of UK operators and passing on the device due to poor webOS sales across the board are, unfortunately, quite high. We've caught wind that the Pre 3 will not make it to Sprint's shelves and T-Mobile has still yet to stock a webOS device. That leaves AT&T and Verizon, who we've figured would get the Pre 3 anyway. Seeing as none of the webOS devices have been knockouts yet and current webOS sales are dire at best, I could see Big Red and Ol' Blue also holding off.
It's really disappointing to watch webOS wither so quickly. I've been a fan of the software since its launch in 2009. But a problem from the beginning was always hardware. Palm was exceptional at making mediocre hardware, which played a major role in the swift rise and fall of webOS. Now HP is in charge of things and they're doing little different on the hardware front. They may be boosting specs a bit, but where are our all-touchscreen slabs? Where are the high-quality materials? There are obviously several things that can be attributed to lackluster sales in the webOS camp, but hardware is still a major pitfall.
Here's to hoping that at least some US carriers give webOS and the Pre 3 the chance it deserves. If they do, would you buy a Pre 3 over the iPhone, an Android device or a new BlackBerry? Could this be the device to turn things around for HP's mobile endeavors? Or will this be the final nail in the webOS coffin?