HP's webOS Reportedly Runs Significantly Faster on iPad 2 Than on TouchPad
HP's startling disclosure yesterday that it is looking into a sale or spinoff of its PC business and is discontinuing its webOS-based hardware program has sent shock waves through the industry. One of the more curious aspects of the move is HP's plans for webOS, the company's mobile operating system that it obtained with last year's $1.2 billion purchase of Palm and relaunched on new Pre smartphones and the TouchPad tablet just months ago.
According to This is my next..., HP informed its webOS team during an all-hands meeting yesterday that it remains committed to the platform, although it is unclear exactly how the company will look to capitalize on it, whether through potential licensing or other means.
In the meeting, webOS GBU VP Stephen DeWitt made it clear that HP intends to continue to work on webOS and likely intends to license it. DeWitt was adamant, saying several times “We are not walking away from webOS.” He detailed a plan to try to determine what the platform’s future will look like within the next two weeks, although he admitted that “Clearly, we don’t have all the answers today.”
HP executive Todd Bradley noted that with webOS currently designed to work only on Qualcomm-based hardware, potential licensees would most likely be interested in seeing webOS modified to run on other chipsets if HP were to pursue that route.
But many have questioned whether HP will even be able to license webOS to third parties, given that neither Palm nor HP has been able to gain consumer traction with the platform. For its part, HP claims that it sees promise in the software that has been hampered by poor hardware.
On that note, The Next Web reports that HP engineers had gone as far as to test webOS running on an iPad, finding that the operating system ran "over twice as fast" on the iPad 2 as it did on the TouchPad for which it had been designed. Even running as a web app within the iPad 2's Safari browser yielded substantially better performance than on the TouchPad.
The hardware reportedly stopped the team from innovating beyond certain points because it was slow and imposed constraints, which was highlighted when webOS was loaded on to Apple’s iPad device and found to run the platform significantly faster than the device for which it was originally developed.
With a focus on web technologies, webOS could be deployed in the iPad’s Mobile Safari browser as a web-app; this produced similar results, with it running many times faster in the browser than it did on the TouchPad.
The report notes that the TouchPad hardware had essentially already been designed when HP acquired Palm last year, with the engineers tasked with getting webOS running on the existing design. The resulting handicap of outdated hardware reportedly crippled the webOS team's ability to innovate for the tablet platform and ultimately led to the poor market reception.
Regardless of the reasons, the TouchPad clearly did not take off as HP had hoped, and the company quickly pulled the plug on the project as part of its dramatic shift in business focus. The shift leaves the future of webOS unsettled, and while speculation has centered around whether a company like Amazon might be interested in acquiring it for its own use, others have suggested that HP might be better off simply selling off the patent portfolio associated with web OS, a move that could actually result in a profit relative to the company's $1.2 billion acquisition price for Palm.