By Harry McCracken | Monday, September 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm
More news from TechCrunch Disrupt: TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington asked Todd Bradley, executive VP of HP’s Personal Systems Group, whether the company had any intention of licensing WebOS, which it acquired when it bought Palm, to any other company. He gave a definitive “no,” and if that decision has been publicly stated before, I’d missed it.
Bradley knows whereof he speaks: He’s a former CEO of Palm, back when it was an independent company–one that, at one point, staked its future on the idea that a company could be both a hardware maker and a licensor of its operating system to other companies. Some decent products emerged during this era–I certainly dug my Sony Clie–but overall, it seemed to be terribly damaging to Palm, and the fact that the company split into two entires (PalmOne and PalmSource) hurt rather than helped. In fact, it probably contributed to Palm being in the sticky situation that eventually led to it being acquisition bait for HP.
I can’t think, offhand, of an operating system that’s been both a successful in-house platform and a successful licensed one for any period of time. (If you can recall any, shout them out–no, Mac OS doesn’t count.)
Even if it’s a smart decision on HP’s part to make itself the only manufacturer of WebOS phones, tablets, and other devices, it makes the challenge ahead for the platform…well, that much more challenging. All by itself, it’s got to sell enough devices to make WebOS an appealing choice for third-party developers. That means that it needs to come up with some products that are so good that they’re blockbusters that sell in the millions.
And time’s a-wasting–as GigaOm’s Ryan Kim points out, the current crop of WebOS handsets are looking a tad aged. I’m still a major fan of WebOS, and version 2.0 looks promising from what we know about it. But there need to be signs of life on the hardware front soon–how about a phone announcement or two before the year’s over?