In the wake of HP’s announcement last week that they were discontinuing WebOS hardware, the tech world has been quick to pronounce the death of the late Palm’s mobile platform. This is, after all, its second fatal blow in as many years. HP wasn’t ready to announce any hardware partners they were licensing WebOS to. Developers have been flocking to competitors, who are welcoming them with open arms.
All that may have changed this weekend when HP (and most vendors) dropped the price on the TouchPad to $100. Suddenly, everyone had to have the device. Best Buy, who only days before was trying to return 90% of their stock to HP, was suddenly sold out within hours. Any website rumored to carry the TouchPad went down in minutes. Amazon only discounted the device to $300 and it still made the top slot in electronics sales, ahead of Amazon’s own Kindle. The fact that you can get a Pre 2 or Veer for $50, or the Pre 3 for $75, probably isn’t hurting adoption rates of this supposedly deceased operating system either.
The true test of the future of any operating system isn’t apps. It’s not even about the current plans (or lack thereof) of hardware vendors. No, the first thing manufacturers look at when thinking about licensing WebOS is going to be the potential for consumer adoption. Users may not have been ready to buy the lackluster hardware HP produced at the same price as the iPad, but the last few days proved they go for it at the right price. Given a better product, there’s a good chance that price is something considerably more profitable
App developers should see new opportunities in WebOS now as well. With this enormous new pool of customers, developing for the App Catalog just became a much more attractive prospect. Probably enough to bring back the developers Windows Phone 7 picked up in the last few days, and maybe even a few more. And as the Catalog grows, WebOS’s biggest weakness, its lack of apps, starts to shrink.
It’s far too soon to say for sure what the fate of WebOS is. Crowded as the mobile space is, this may still be a five-horse race. Any WebOS fans out there getting excited?