Remember webOS? We don't hear much about Hewlett-Packard's mobile operating system these days -- mostly because it's busy being overshadowed by Android, Apple, Blackberry, and even Windows (now that Microsoft inked a sweet deal with Nokia). But webOS is alive and quietly kicking, and if HP has its way, the software will soon roll out to non-HP products, including cars.
Earlier this year, HP's CEO Leo Apotheker made some coy statements about the prospects of licensing webOS to other hardware manufacturers: "It's not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet."Now, webOS director Stephen DeWitt has added fuel to the fire Apotheker started, telling the Wall Street Journal that he's seen "an enormous amount of interest" in webOS from a range of companies. Conveniently, he declined to name names.
HP has hinted, however, that some of those companies might be automakers. As much as we love in-car technology, we think putting webOS in cars might be a pipe dream. Why?
1. HP is awfully late to this ballgame. That's not to say there's no room for competition among operating systems -- Android was delayed getting out of the gate, but it now dominates the field. And of course, chances are good that at least one of the Big Guns will crash and burn before long, giving HP a better shot at success. Still, the company's fighting an uphill battle.
2. WebOS is proprietary. Apple's iOS is proprietary, too, but when it launched, it had no competition, so it was able to grab and maintain market share early. (Apple also maintains a legion of fanboys who are willing to buy anything sanctioned by Steve Jobs.) WebOS, on the other hand, has plenty of competition, and if it has hardcore fans, they're not especially vocal. Add to that the price that hardware manufacturers will likely be charged to license webOS, and the odds are stacked against HP.
3. We're not so sure about the future of HP or webOS. What would happen if a company like Chrysler agreed to use webOS, then HP folded five years down the line? Or what if webOS were canned? What would happen to drivers of those cars that relied on webOS? Like the Whirlpool rep cited in the WSJ article, we worry that cars could outlast HP.
But maybe we're being unduly pessimistic about HP's chances. After all, we dismissed Palm years ago, and look where that company is now. If you have a different opinion, or if you're an HP fanboy, feel free to weigh in below.