HP has announced that it is considering the spin-off or sale of its PC business unit. The announcement was made yesterday, part of the company’s Q3 2011 Earnings results. HP’s PC unit includes the WebOS-based smartphone and tablet computer business.
If you recall, HP inherited WebOS, a Linux distribution originally designed for smartphones, but that can scale to larger computing devices, including tablet computers and desktops.
The Palm Pre line of smartphones and the new TouchPad tablet computer, are very good products, but they have not been doing well in the market place. Apple, with iPhone and the iPad, has a near choke-hold on that market segment. The specific wording about WebOS goes like this:
HP will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. The devices have not met internal milestones and financial targets. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.
WebOS is an awesome Linux distribution, and like Android, it can run on standard desktop computers, as well as it runs on smartphones and tablets. The problem with it, as HP indicated, is not the technology, but the competition, which has a cult-like following.
So, to not let WebOS be a failed distribution, here’s what I think HP should do with WebOS – make it a free, Linux distribution, such that the relationship between it (HP) and WebOS would be akin to that between Red Hat and Fedora, or Canonical and Ubuntu.
Imagine a Linux distribution with all the touch goodies and other awesome features of WebOS. It will set the free software community on fire. Months before this announcement, HP has hinted that it will likely license WebOS to other hardware manufacturers, but making it a free Linux distribution that you could download and install on anything you own, will completely change the desktop operating system landscape.
A move like that will actually help the Pre and TouchPad. I do not own a tablet computer currently, but if HP takes my suggestion, I will be the first one to buy multiple HP TouchPads.