Four mobile lessons the end of HP's webOS slate teaches us...
Another day, another huge upheaval in the mobile computing space: this time it's HP pulling out of tablets and mobiles. Selling mobile devices used to be the business of Palm, which HP bought for $1.2bn just over a year ago.
Until recently, HP had been banking on Palm's webOS operating system to win it a big slice of the tablet and smartphone markets: in February this year, at the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show, I watched HP demoing its first webOS tablet along with two webOS smartphones, the Veer and Pre3.
WebOS was slick and intuitive, with multitasking and notifications built in from the get-go. The UI was innovative and intuitive, the WebKit browser supported multitouch gestures, Flash and HTML5. On the hardware front, smartphones saw shiny touchscreens coupled with slide-out full Qwerty keyboards - offering the best of both input worlds.
Aesthetics-wise, edges were rounded and handsets sat snugly in the palm - smooth as pebbles. The tiny Veer was small enough to be a pebble in fact, while the TouchPad resembled a handsome but chunkier iPad.
With hardware and software this attractive, comparisons with Apple's wares were inevitable, and industry watchers wondered whether the TouchPad could be a serious rival to the iPad.
The answer, we now learn, is no: the TouchPad was no iPad killer. HP has closed its webOS devices business - and unless it decides to license or sell the software (HTC could make a good suitor - it's just a shame it's too late for Nokia), webOS is facing a less than dignified relegation to powering printer hardware.
The death of the TouchPad tells us several things:
1. Hardware and software is not enough Firstly it shows that great software and decent hardware are not in themselves enough to compete in the fiercely competitive mobile market - not now Apple has established it owns the premium end of the market. It also shows that vertical integration - a particularly trendy notion at present - is not some magic bullet in mobile. Similarly, owning both software and hardware hasn't helped RIM transform its ageing mobile business to compete with Apple and Android. Indeed, the BlackBerry-maker has had to...