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Tech for Personal Growth

HP's Exit Strategy for Handhelds

It's easier to sell a going concern
About 1 min reading time

There is wide agreement that HP's hardware (and before that, Palm's hardware) for webOS was not as good as it needed to be, to compete. HP failed, over the course of a year, to use its "scale" to properly sell the devices it did have. So, it's reasonable for HP to stop making webOS hardware.

webOS itself was widely praised for its elegance of design (if not so widely for its implementation). Other manufacturers expressed interest in licensing webOS, despite the poor history of Apple and Palm directly competing against their licensees.

Deciding to ax your hardware changes the proposition. Windows CE/Windows Mobile and its licensees trundled along for over a decade. And as of this week, Android licensees are strongly motivated to look for a new OS to add to their lineup - so a deal is more reachable than ever before.

What looks better to a licensee - a functioning ecosystem where you can add products, or a mothballed ecosystem that must be revived? For the cost of shutting down webOS GBU suddenly, HP could easily have ramped down operations until new devices from new manufacturers were within reach. If apps are truly as important as pundits say, it's better to have developers continuing to work during the transition, rather than trying to lure them back to a re-animated platform.

With licensing deals much easier to make this week, there was no rush to announce the end of HP webOS devices, and kill off current sales and consumer interest. Even if a licensing deal is announced within a month, HP has badly damaged the value of webOS.

Leo Apotheker and the rest of HP's high management have done their shareholders a disservice by macho posturing instead of prudent operations.