Now that HP is “exploring options” for webOS, speculation has run rampant about the future of webOS. Some ideas are thoughtful, others well-meaning but boneheaded, and then some are oddly malicious posts that seem to be actively hoping for webOS’s death (I’m guessing these people also hate adorable puppies, sunshine, and their father, but I digress).
There’s one argument against the desirability of webOS for future partners that I want to address in particular because, as with many wrong ideas, it seems quite reasonable on first glance. It has appeared in a handful of places, and I won’t quote any directly, but the argument is along the lines of:
Why should any company be confident making hardware for HP’s webOS when HP itself isn’t confident enough in webOS to make hardware for it?
Seems pretty reasonable, right? Well, no.
The problem with this argument is that it presumes if something is not optimal for one company to do, it’s not optimal for any company to do. If HP contracts with an external catering company to run the employee cafeteria, does that mean catering isn’t a viable business? Of course not. It just means that HP knows where it can best focus its limited amount of time, money, and corporate focus, and running the kitchen and cash register is not among them. It is far better to leave it to a company that lives and breaths catering, which will always be able to deliver a better product at a lower price. Or there is the fact that the most popular OS in the world (Windows) comes from a company that doesn’t make its hardware. Does that mean Microsoft never had any confidence in Windows? No, it means they knew their strength was software (clearly) and they should leave making the boxes to companies that live and breathe sourcing operations and sales.
It’s the same deal for mobile hardware. While there are always exceptions, new state-of-the-art hardware comes at a fast and furious pace from a variety of world-class manufacturers in Asia. They live and breathe hardware, going from conceptual design to manufacturing and shipping at incredible speeds, and every part of those companies staff structure and corporate culture drive them to do it even better the next day. It would require an enormous investment of time and money to try and match the Asian giants in hardware manufacturing prowess, and with no certainty of success
HP just realized it can do a better job with webOS if the webOS team laser-focuses on just that–webOS–and leaves other people to live and breathe the hardware on which it will run.