HP has been on-again, off-again in its plans to spin off its PC division. But as the company's old management was firm in its plans to leave the hardware business to focus on enterprise software, newly-appointed CEO Meg Whitman has decided to keep HP's core business intact, which means the company will continue producing PCs for the enterprise and consumer market. But what becomes of HP's mobile platform, webOS?
HP has probably had a hit with its TouchPad. While a virtual unknown when it was selling at its original price of US$ 499 apiece, the tablet got its big break in the market when HP said it was spinning off its Personal Systems Group, and the TouchPad was sold at firesale prices. At US$ 99 for a 16 GB tablet and US$ 149 for 32 GB, the TouchPad was a steal. HP has since started internal tests with Android and Windows 8 Developer Preview on the TouchPad, and might have plans to pursue a second-generation tablet running a different platform.
But where does that leave webOS?
Oracle Interested, But Why?
HP is reportedly considering selling off its webOS division to another company. Reuters reports that current valuations could run up to several hundred million dollars, although this would be deeply discounted from HP's original purchase of Palm (with which webOS came) at US$ 1.2 billion in 2010.
The company is being advised by Merrill Lynch on whether to continue maintaining webOS, license it to other hardware manufacturers or sell it off altogether. Sources say Oracle Corp is among the parties interested in making an offer to acquire webOS, which could actually be a good asset for a company wanting to make a play in the mobile and tablet market.
Patent Arsenal Against Android?
But what could Oracle's motive for acquiring webOS be? Oracle does not have a mobile business, and it is in bitter rivalry with HP, especially with the lawsuits ensuing from former HP CEO Mark Hurd's exodus to Oracle, where he is now President.
Business Insider says a webOS acquisition will come with a host of patents formerly owned by Palm that Oracle could use in its ongoing patent litigation with Google, particularly relating to the latter's Android mobile operating system.
As such, does webOS have a future as a platform? Will webOS end up as the biggest threat to Android, if not for the technology itself, but as legal ammo in Oracle's US$ 2 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Google?