About a week ago, Samsung hired a former HP vice president to handle their PC sales. This move spurred speculations about Samsung possibly taking over webOS. WebOS, if you remember, was Palm’s attempt at competing against iOS and Android. After a series of lackluster phones and disappointing sales, HP acquired them for HP for $1.2 Billion Dollars. HP had big plans for webOS. They were going to put the OS on tablets, laptops, and even printers. Printers!
After HP acquired webOS, they released the HP Veer, a tic-tac-size “smart phone. The phone was way too small to be useful. And to make matters worse, it was $100, and available on AT&T. The same AT&T that has an iPhone 3GS for $100. After that came the TouchPad. The TouchPad had been demoed on stage by Jon Rubinstein, former Palm/HP/webOS boss. While early demos and previews showed promise, the device never lived up to expectations upon release. The retail product was plagued with bugs, long startup times, and laggy performance. That, and an anemic app catalog prevented the device from selling well. Best Buy was said to have been sitting on over 200,000 of the them, after HP dropped the price by $100. Ultimately, HP pulled the plug on the entire webOS platform.
Fast forward to today – at IFA, where Samsung’s CEO said that they would “never” pursue such a deal. This does not mean that Samsung was not considering buying webOS. Some even suggested that Samsung could use the large patent portfolio Palm has to defend itself against Apple, who is currently suing Samsung for patent infringement in just about every country on earth.
I must say though, that a webOS acquisition by Samsung didn’t make much sense to me. Samsung builds devices for both Android and Windows Phone platforms. They also have their own in-house mobile OS called Bada that ships on a line of their phones. Adding webOS to the mix would probably be toss distracting and expensive. Sure, they could buy webOS for just the patents, but if recent history serves me right, there maybe other interested parties, and the final price could be a few billions.
Personally, I think that the smart phone market can support two, maybe three platforms – no more. And with Android and iOS currently dominating that segment, the race for third place will be between a weakened Blackberry and Windows Phone. Only time will tell.