Reuters reported this week that HP is looking to sell webOS, a technology that the firm once viewed as its future in the personal computing space. HP purchased webOS maker Palm in 2010 for a whopping $1.2 billion, but it's likely that it would get less than half that for the company's assets now.
When HP purchased Palm, it announced plans to release new webOS smartphones and tablets and then even add the system to its personal computers in a way that would allow them to "dual boot" between Microsoft's Windows and webOS. But webOS has failed spectacularly under HP, garnering even less interest from consumers than Windows Phone (and much less developer enthusiasm). HP released only one of its planned webOS smartphones, and the webOS-based TouchPad tablet tanked in the market.
In August, HP issued a bizarre statement tied to its quarterly earnings in which it said it would possibly sell off both its PC business and the webOS technologies; it further announced that it would no longer produce devices based on webOS. The furor that followed led to the ouster of HP's CEO, Leo Apotheker and the eventual rise of Meg Whitman, who became HP CEO a month later. Whitman announced that HP would not exit the PC business in late October, but left the fate of webOS up in the air.
Palm originally developed webOS as an alternative to Apple's iPhone. It was aimed initially at touch-based smartphones, but such devices never sold well for a variety of reasons. Short on cash, Palm eventually sought a buyer, finding one in deep-pocketed HP. The HP/Palm collaboration has been nothing short of a disaster, and it's likely that in seeking to control its own software computing platform, HP has harmed its once-solid relationship with Microsoft as well.
According to Reuters, several tech companies are interested in purchasing HP's webOS division, including Amazon, Research In Motion (RIM), Intel, IBM, and Oracle. But given its lack of success, and the failing fortunes of other mobile platforms, it's unclear what value webOS has beyond, perhaps, Palm's mobile patent portfolio.