Michael Mace's Take on the Future of WebOS
Michael Mace, has unsurprisingly chimed in via his Mobile Opportunity blog on yesterday's monumental news yesterday regarding HP's decision to discontinue all of their WebOS devices. Long-time Palm watchers will remember Mr. Mace as the former CCO of PalmSource, so he certainly brings to the table not only a greater familiarity with the Palm-companies but the continuing conflicts between the software and hardware sides of the business.
Mace first asserts that the sudden departure of HP CEO Mark Hurd last summer was the first nail in the WebOS coffin, and the feeble sales figures of the Pre 2, Veer, and TouchPad turned out to be the finishing blows. In between these two milestones, Mace claims that both Palm and HP tried too hard to mimic Apple and iOS (something I have thought ever since the CES 2009 unveiling of the Pre and WebOS) instead of differentiating themselves with a unique set of products. He of course references Palm's disastrous attempts to spoof the Pre as a generic iPod in iTunes back in 2009.
Mace does not feel that other hardware manufacturers will be lining up to license WebOS, despite this week's other stunning announcement of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility (which Mace also gives some fascinating insight with his PalmSource experience in his column prior to this one). In fact, Mace conjectures that HP has likely been quietly shopping WebOS around for quite some time, only to be met with no willing takers. He also argues that the storied "Palm" brand, despite being absent most of the past year and with several years of tarnish prior to that, still carries more equity and recognition in the US than HP ever thought possible. I would also tend to agree with this statement.
Finally, Mace concludes with a somewhat controversial statement by claiming that the "real crown jewel" in the WebOS/Palm GBU is not the patent portfolio, as most have speculated, but rather in the product managers and engineers who have already been eliminated or are faced with great uncertainty after yesterday's surprise announcement.