HP Says It Still Plans To Ship WebOS On PCs And Printers — But Why?

HP jon rubinstein todd bradley

[credit provider=”Flickr/Global X” url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/globalx/5431350817/sizes/o/in/photostream/”]

Hewlett-Packard shut down its WebOS hardware business last week, but WebOS head Stephen DeWitt told Ina Fried at AllThingsD that the company still plans to ship WebOS on new printers and PCs next year.This makes no sense.

One of the problems with WebOS was a lack of third-party apps. App developers have to concentrate on the platforms that make them money, which means iOS, Android, and maybe someday Windows Phone.

The lack of users and lack of third-party apps reinforced each other, creating a platform death spiral.

HP hoped to get WebOS out of this death spiral by shipping it on all new PCs and some new printers next year.

As HP’s consumer hardware head Todd Bradley said in February “Do the maths on two PCs per second. You easily exceed 100 million devices with WebOS deployed annually. That’s the start of something pretty big.”

But now that HP has no WebOS devices to sell, there’s much less business reason for it to flog WebOS to developers.

HP could still licence WebOS to a handset maker like Samsung or HTC, but then those companies would be reaping the main benefits of HP’s promotion of WebOS. That’s a lot of time, money, and effort to help build a market from which HP will never earn more than a few bucks per phone from licensing fees.

And of course HP itself might be getting out of the PC business, which renders the whole promise totally irrelevant.

It’s like HP didn’t think through the implications of its retreat very carefully before announcing it.