Hewlett-Packard (HP) Chief Executive Meg Whitman said Friday that the company plans to manufacture a webOS tablet in 2013, even as the company winds down the webOS-based TouchPad tablet.
In what is the latest bizarre turn for HP's webOS and related tablet business, Whitman and board member Marc Andreessen stated that the company would manufacture a webOS tablet perhaps in 2012, and definitely in 2013.
An HP spokesman, asked to confirm the report, said that a webOS tablet would be made only if the market was "viable".
He added that he preferred to focus on the decision to release webOS as open source, which will give it an immortality that it otherwise might not have.
However, the schizophrenia on HP's webOS Operating System (OS) and tablet hardware continues, as HP reportedly plans one last fire sale for the tablet on tomorrow Sunday, in what has become a long and winding road.
Months after the TouchPad was launched in March using HP's webOS Operating System, HPdecided to kill it in August, as part of a decision to kill the webOS hardware business after sales failed to meet expectations.
But after HP discounted the TouchPad to US$99 (€74), sales began to take off, even prompting HP to make another batch.
Whitman and Andreessen also said that HP plans a tablet based on Microsoft's Windows 8 for 2012.
As for the webOS tablet business, we wonder how HP would wind down the webOS tablet business and then bring it back, and what impact it would have on developers.
An HP spokesman backpedaled from Whitman's position, saying that the possibility that HP could manufacture a webOS tablet was "viable" and that it "could happen" - not that it would.
"We're winding down the [webOS] hardware business and leaving the option down the road for webOS-based products," the HP spokesman said.
As far as webOS is concerned, HP could reenter the market, especially if other OEMs and developers began creating an ecosystem that HP could tap into, said Patrick Moorhead, President and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.
"HP doesn't want to shut the door on anything," Moorhead said.
One likely champion?
Samsung, a conglomerate that's shown it understands tablets and phones, Moorhead said.
But Moorhead also noted that Intel, a traditional chip company, has also made substantial investments into the software business.
Intel had championed MeeGo, an open-source OS that it had co-developed with Nokia, but in September ditched it in favor of Tizen, an open-source hybrid of Moblin and Nokia's Maemo.
Whitman has said previously that the company is committed to the tablet market.
"I think we need to be in the tablet business, and we're certainly going to be there with Windows 8," Whitman said during a conference call with analysts in late October. "We're going to make a run at this [tablet] business."