HP sends webOS to incubate in OS&T

An interesting development on Friday was marked by HP organizational memos sent by Todd Bradley and Shane Robison to their respective organizations to outline some immediate steps taken to preserve value in webOS. Todd Bradley leads HP’s Personal Systems Group (PSG), the business unit that takes care of PCs and is now a prime candidate to be spun-off as a new company with Todd Bradley as its CEO. At least, that’s what all the vibe coming out of HP points to at present.

Shane Robison, whom I used to work for, is HP’s Chief Strategy and Technology Officer and has been the architect of many of the acquisitions that HP such as EDS and OpsWare has made since the merger with Compaq in 2002. Shane’s group is the Office of Strategy and Technology (OS&T) and includes HP Labs as well as businesses that HP seeks to incubate such as MagCloud and other cloud services.

Shane’s memo to OS&T says:

“I’m pleased that the executive team has decided that the webOS software teams will be best served joining the Office of Strategy and Technology while we investigate how to leverage the webOS platform and its ecosystem. This move also supports the teams’ continued efforts with over-the-air updates and the application catalog.”

HP has kept the hardware side of webOS in PSG and moved the webOS software into OS&T. The really interesting thing here is that OS&T is the part of HP that seeks to maximize the value of HP’s patent portfolio and R&D efforts, an area that HP has paid increasing attention to since 2004 or thereabouts. We can therefore conclude that HP will seek to extract as much value as it can from the webOS patents that it now holds, some of which are pretty fundamental to the integration of phone devices and computers.

The other interesting thing that I see here is that OS&T acts as the glue that brings all of the technology from HP’s different business units together. It’s entirely possible that another HP group might find a use for webOS. For example, IPG (the Imaging and Printing business) might be able to figure out how to use webOS as the basis for a new generation of very intelligent network-based printers. And then of course the boffins in HP Labs, spread around the world from Palo Alto to Beijing to St. Petersburg and Bristol, are always likely to come up with some lateral thinking that creates something new and different.

All of this is just hypothetical. I do not know the details of the current organizational priorities that are set within OS&T nor what they might be working on behind the scenes. I do know that a lot of very intelligent and remarkably smart people work within OS&T, especially in HP Labs, and moving webOS into OS&T makes me just a little more positive about what might develop in the future. All in all, this looks like a good move by HP. It’s just a pity that this development couldn’t have been described two weeks ago to counterbalance some of the bad press that HP received for its seemingly uncoordinated set of announcements on August 18.

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