James Wang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei [Tuesday 23 August 2011]
With Hewlett-Packard (HP) announcing it will stop developing webOS-based products including smartphones and tablet PCs and will spin off its Personal System Group (PSG) business, Digitimes Research analyzed several possible outcomes of the event that may affect the IT industry.
If HP decides to sell webOS to social network site Facebook, it would have the largest impact on competition in the mobile operating system market, among all other possible outcomes, since Facebook has shown ambitions to cut into the mobile operating system market with its acquisition of Snaptu, a company that has developed an application that allows feature phones to have a similar interface as that of smartphones.
In addition to Facebook, if webOS is sold to RIM, the operating system will also have a good chance of being able to continue in the mobile operating system market.
Facebook is also cooperating with High Tech Computer (HTC) to developed smartphones including the HTC Salsa and Chacha that are highly integrated with Facebook applications. The reason Facebook still has not yet launched a Facebook application for iPad is due to the company wishing to own control of account information, which conflicts against Apple's own benefits.
Therefore, Facebook is not working on Project Spartan, encouraging developers to design web-based applications using HTML 5 and intended to be released free from the control of vendor's application stores.
If Facebook uses webOS technology to develop a mobile platform, it would have a great chance to copy the same successful business model as Android and would strongly impact the industry.
Facebook currently has about 750 million users worldwide and is the most popular application on iPhone. Since the company's major profit sources are advertising, the same as Google, the company would also be able to provide the software for free.
If either Samsung or HTC acquire webOS, the operating system would only help reduce their reliance on Android, and if the two firms buy the operating system for its patents, the chance of them continuing to develop webOS is rather low.
If HP cannot find a buyer for webOS, although the company will continue to provide technical support and seek partners to authorize its patents, the company is unlikely to expand its development of the software and there is also no possible target for it to authorize patents to.