HP Killing webOS DevicesS

HP just announced that it's killing off its line of webOS devices. Updated

A terse line in a press release from the company today reads "HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones."

WebOS phones are great devices, much beloved by users, but they haven't sold well. It seemed like good news for webOS when HP bought Palm, but despite HP's clout, the phones still failed to catch on. There weren't enough apps. There weren't enough updates. And consequently, there weren't enough users. It was already clear that webOS was in very, very much trouble. Especially after Jon Rubinstein's recent departure.

It's huge news. It means that the smartphone market just became a four way race between iOS, Android, Blackberry and WP7. It's also one less OS in the burgeoning tablet market, which is really just getting off the ground. And likely explains the recent price drop on the TouchPad. It also comes on the heels of reports earlier today that HP is spinning off its PC business.

I have to say I'm rather disheartened. Not only because I thought webOS was great, but also because it means fewer choices for consumers. HP had the muscle to do something great with webOS, but it never did. And of course it's sad to see the company that essentially created Silicon Valley folding up its tent and packing it in like this.

Update: webOS may still have a future, just not one that runs on HP hardware. A cryptic tweet from HP VP Richard Kerris notes that "webOS is an awesome software platform and now we can explore the best hardware partner for it."

Update: On a call to discuss this past quarter's earnings HP CEO Léo Apotheker lamented that "webOS devices have not gained enough traction" with consumers, and that the hardware would be wound down in Q4 of this year.

Update: HP CFO Cathie Lesjak made the point that webOS would have required "significant investment over the next five years, generating risk without any real rewards," which, uh, that's what happens every time you introduce a new product?

Update: Apotheker just reiterated that webOS itself isn't dead (although what is a soul without a body?):

"We are looking at all of our strategic options concerning the software… we will be looking at all of the options from our devices, to third devices, to other manufacturers… We will be looking at all possible business models from licensing to other possibilities…"

What kind of future does a licensed webOS mean? Probably not much of one; what kind of manufacturer would rather pay for webOS than pick up Android for free? [BusinessWire]