The obvious questions for HP are whether it acted too quickly or mishandled its announcements when, two weeks ago, it said that it was ending the TouchPad tablet and curtailing the webOS operating system.
Yesterday, Nancy Gohring at Computerworld reported that HP said that "stunning" demand is leading the company to produce TouchPads through the end of its fiscal year on Oct. 31. The story links to a blog post by Mark Budgell, HP's public relations manager for social media strategy. He writes:
Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand. We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase.
Everyone understands that a company at some point wants to make a strategic shift, but, if it does so, it is best done cleanly. Why push out a few more thousand units? Is the expectation that demand will subside after that? In any case, why move in such a seemingly disorganized manner? Vendors spend millions of dollars honing their marketing messages and vying for the public's affection. It seems a bit odd that HP succeeded-and then left the party. It is even stranger that it would reverse course, but only for a couple of months.
Things also are a bit fuzzy on the webOS front itself. The news a couple of weeks ago was that HP was limiting webOS, not ending it. This is how PC World phrased it:
In a number of interviews, Stephen DeWitt, who heads up the HP division responsible for webOS, has emphasized that webOS will live on in PCs and as an embedded platform for printers and appliances. "We made the decision to focus on the platform," DeWitt recently told Engadget. "We could bring webOS to the market and expand the ecosystem ... We can look at licensing; we can look at OEM and ODM-type relationships." DeWitt also told Engadget that HP has been in talks with third parties about webOS, but declined to say which companies HP was talking to.
All Things D's Ina Fried, essentially says that HP is getting out of the OS game. The bottom line, though she didn't put it this way, is that a company offering as complex as an OS in a field as competitive as the OS sector needs to be fully engaged:
But more than anything else, HP just doesn't seem to have the stomach to be in the mobile game. The company was finding it hard enough to get developers and partners even when it was talking up webOS as the greatest thing since sliced bread - and the future of its PCs, printers and mobile devices. How would HP ever convince those same partners and developers, now that it has revealed it is no longer really interested in webOS?
The bottom line is there still is a good deal of ambiguity about where HP is on the two related items. The very fuzziness of what is going on speaks volumes. In the mobile game, not having a laser focus on the end goals of seeing more hardware and software is the equivalent of bowing out. They need not worry: Eventually, their customers and supply chain will break the news to them.