Did Windows 8 kill the TouchPad and webOS?

Did Windows 8 kill the TouchPad and webOS?

Summary: The bizarre early death of the HP TouchPad and the webOS platform will be discussed for years. What triggered the company's abrupt reversal of its public plans for the platform? I'm betting on Windows 8.

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MS kills TouchPad

Those covering the tech space, myself included, were shocked when HP cancelled the TouchPad tablet mere days after its launch. When the company quickly followed that cancellation with a complete reversal of its stated plans for the webOS platform, speculation was rife as to what caused the change of direction by HP.

As we near the launch date for Windows 8, the reason for HP's strange reversal is clear to me. It seems obvious that Windows 8 and its design to run on tablets killed off the TouchPad and forced HP's hand with webOS.

If you remember back when HP bought Palm and brought webOS into the HP family, the company wasted little time sharing the grandiose plans for the platform. HP was going to put webOS on its entire line of products, PCs, printers, the works. The platform that Palm built was to become a major part of HP's strategy for its consumer products.

HP employees shared with me off the record at the time that the company vision was to use webOS to power its printers to differentiate them from the competition. That plan was also to put webOS alongside Windows on all of its PCs, notebooks and desktops, to give it an advantage over the offerings from Dell, Lenovo, and other competitors. The inclusion of webOS was a key part of the competitive strategy to give it a leg up on the industry.

So what happened to make HP drop all of these big plans already underway? What was the trigger that made HP executives realize that everything webOS, including the once pride-inducing TouchPad tablet, was doomed to failure?

The timing of the reversal suggests it was Microsoft's giving HP an early look at Windows 8 that derailed webOS. According to HP employees there at the time, after Microsoft shared details of its plans for Windows 8 the HP vision for webOS completely changed.

It is common practice for Microsoft to share early plans of the direction for Windows with major partners like HP. This took place shortly before the TouchPad hit the market according to employees at HP.

The discovery that Microsoft was pushing tablets running Windows 8, and was working on a version for ARM tablets (like the TouchPad), was the trigger that shot holes in the sails of webOS at HP.

Once HP was shown the radical new direction for Windows the brakes were applied to stop the plans for webOS. The only thing that could negate HP's advantage in the marketplace with webOS was Windows itself powering tablets, notebooks, and desktops.

The production of a version of Windows for tablets and other ARM-based devices, Windows RT, single-handedly killed the TouchPad. According to HP employees who will remain anonymous, the rapid death of the TouchPad tablet is directly related to the inside information HP was given back then about Windows 8. This included demonstrations of early tablet prototypes running Windows 8.

HP officially has no comment about the effect Windows 8 had on its decision to kill the TouchPad and webOS. The hypothesis that Windows 8 triggered the death of webOS is my own, and is shared by some at HP. Given the timing of early Windows 8 information given to HP and the subsequent reversal of its plans with webOS, it's not a huge leap to reach this conclusion.

It took a big trigger to kill webOS at HP, and that trigger was Windows 8 in this author's view.

Topics: Mobile OS, Hewlett-Packard, Tablets, Windows

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50 comments
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  • I love webos and Windows 8

    But I believe they are not direct competitors. Webos for Phones is great (I hear people complain about performance problems on the Touchpad, but I didn't have any on my veer), and Windows 8 is good for tablets.
    the_tyrant
    • TouchPad Owner Here

      And I really like webOS except for one thing: the lack of apps. And that's circular. webOS does not have much of a market so developers are not going to write apps for it. And developers not writing apps for it will continue to hurt market share.

      Their email app is better than ANY other email app on any tablet. Their calendaring app is great also. Skype works great on it and so do many apps. The deal killer for me was the lack of Netflix and Hulu. So... off to Cyanogenmod I went.
      benched42
      • Do you see this being fixed

        with the upcoming opensource release? Do you think it would be fixed it people hedged some of their bets by selling WebOS tablets when it comes out of beta?

        Also, how is the performance of it?
        Michael Alan Goff
        • Not really. Open-source feeds the market for geeks but, ...

          ... without a consumer product to sell, not many people are going to play with WebOS unless they are among the aforementioned geeks.
          M Wagner
  • WebOS was killed by substandard HTML5 framework

    WebOS already failed to take off (which surprised no real developers) when it's still under PALM as HTML5 simply is not rich & interactive to be used as a mobile platform (you cannot even access the accelerometor with it). Palm made the bad decision to build WebOS that sunk the company but managed to find HP as the bag-holder. HP wasted 1B on it and then realize they were fooled so they cut the loss.
    LBiege
  • Win8 did NOT kill webOS

    webOS killed itself. MS on the other hand took HPalm's plan of deploying webOS on every shipping laptop and trumped it with the 3 screen roll out of Metro: xBox, Phone, PC. As a former Pre user I loved webOS. Unfortunatly it was dead before the HP buyout and that death was guaranteed by the delay getting product to market caused by the long integration period. The TP was a year old by the time it got to maret and was NOT competitive. End of story.
    Oknarf
  • For the paranoid out there...

    Or was the conclusion of the meeting have a "Nice tablet there, webOS is it... Too bad the licenses for Windows may have to rise by 200%..."
    jessepollard
    • paranoid, no - sad, yes!

      Bingo! You are correct Sir! While it was mostly the fact that Leo was an idiot, I'm sure this did have something to do with it...
      MicrosoftIsABoatOnFireWithAHoleInIt
      • You should run to your nearest DoJ / EU office

        Give them your evidence. MS is not allowed to do this so you should give them all the proof you have. Let us know how your conversation goes, we all want to know how long it takes them to stop laughing after you say "I'm SURE this did have something to do with it".
        toddbottom3
        • Yes I see the tinfoil hat is fitted on extra tight today.

          TouchPads had problems. HP couldn't sell them at a profit. They new they'd have to spend another crapton of time and money to get it right. MS showed them what they'd be competing against when they were done. HP saw it made zero business sense. End of story. Please feel free to produce your own competing os and ecossytem if you think the roi is there for you. Otherwise zip it.
          Johnny Vegas
      • Are we really going here?

        MSFT already has and has had a tablet OS for the last 10 years. Now they are rolling out a model that will compete with the more succesful consumer electronics/data consumption devices, but they will win the enterprise market as well with this model by making it usable for both power users who need more than a touchpad and mouse clicks to consume OS maker content.
        OSXandLinuxAreNuclearSubmarinesOnFireLeakingRadioactiveMaterialWithGapingHolesInThem.
        xuniL_z
    • Well, not according to the Windows 8 haters.

      The basic premis the Windows 8 haters had when the Windows Surface was announced was that because of the fact (according to their thinking) that a Windows 8 tablet would have an unfair pricing advantage over the OEM Windows 8 based tablets and that this would have an almost certain effect of angering the OEM's so much that many of them would be likely to abandon Windows 8 on tablets entierly for another OS or at least push out some tablets that had some competing OS as well as Windows 8 tablets.

      It seems to me the whole theory of Microsoft telling HP that they would make any substantive INCREASE in the cost of Windows 8 for them is the very same kind effect, only making the Windows Surface even far less expensive than an HP Windows 8 tablet and angering HP even more than the Surface simply existing, thus according to Windows 8 haters this should have been FAR more than enough to really blow the collective minds of HP and they should have certainly said screw you MS and instead poured ther efforts into Palm.

      Unless the Windows 8 haters paranoid predictions were simply dead wrong.

      I really really get the feeling the Windows 8 haters are just scarred silly by Windows 8 ever becoming a big success. Its like the haters are throwing whatever "crap" they can think of at the wall and see if it just might stick.
      Cayble
      • If Windows OEMs can sell close-out models of Windows 7 notebooks ...

        ... for $349, they can sell entry-level (1024x768) touch-screen Windows RT (or even 8) tablets for $399 to $499 - thus competing head-to-head with Apple. The Surface RT will start at $599 and $699 and the Surface 8 Pro will sell for $799 and $899. This leaves the $999+ space for Ultrabooks and high-end tablets.

        Some Android vendors - currently stuck in the $199 to $299 space may even "jump ship" to sell Windows RT tablets at $399 to $499.
        M Wagner
  • Mismanagement

    How do you spend $1 billion for Palm, create a strategy around it and drop it like a hot potato from prototypes of Windows 8?

    One BILLION dollars?!?!?!?!?!

    The argument can be made that Windows is/has been HP's bread and butter. But after spending that much money, you had better have a plan you're willing to stick with. And I disagree that HP was "duped".

    HP knew exactly what it was doing and the potential of webOS (and if they didn't, it's even more justification of ineptitude). Their problem was and still is poor management with no vision or the wherewithal to stay the course of their decision.
    tallbruva
    • What?

      "The argument can be made that Windows is/has been HP's bread and butter."

      No, it's always been HPUX and their servers. And their printers. And their services.

      Their desktops and laptops have such razor thin margins that they don't really make money there. No one in that market does.
      benched42
    • I believe you've got it right

      (and if they didn't, it's even more justification of ineptitude).

      I believe they didn't and it is
      billy_kidd
    • HP is a bit of a chameleon right now.

      There commitment to their retailers means that every retail cuts a cut f every sale even if they were not involved in the sale. The result is that, while HP is the largest PC retailer in the USA, they cannot compete fir enterprise business against vendors like Dell.

      HP is a stodgy old company who does not know how to "think outside the box". They want to be like IBM but they are NOT IBM!

      They want to be a retailers too but they don't know how to play in the on-line space - or even the consumer space. They have become too dependent on their VARs and they don't know how to fix it!
      M Wagner
  • Nope

    How does HP dropping webos to embrace windows8, along with every other OEM, further their plans to differentiate themselves from the competition? HP isn't even making an ARM based windows tablet, which makes your theory very suspect.

    Windows8 was a long way off and HP did not need to dump webos so violently and in turn shun retailers and customers at the same time. Likewise they can still use webos on their other devices if they so choose. From printers to devices.

    I think HP announcing that it was getting out of the consumer market had more to do with that than seeing windows 8
    Emacho
  • So James, Does THIS Change Your Opinion of Windows 8?

    If an early preview of Windows 8 was enough to scare HP off a $1 BILLION investment, don't you think it has a pretty good chance of success, particularly in the mobile (tablet, ultrabook, notebook) market?
    dksmidtx
    • Windows 8 will do fine

      Windows 8 has no worries in the long term. It is Windows after all.
      JamesKendrick