Bad News for Microsoft: HTC Might Buy webOS

September 12, 2011
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HTC is reportedly being interested in acquiring webOS from HP. HP is probably still not sure whether they want to sell it or not, most likely along with their Palm patents, which HTC could also really use against Apple (and maybe Microsoft later). Also, HTC says if they are doing this they want it to be a very rational decision, and not an impulse one.

First of all, they need to be sure HP isn’t ripping them off, asking them for many billions of dollars for it. In my opinion webOS is worth even less now than it did when HP bought it. The thing is, the more time passed, the more Android and iOS got a foothold in the market, and now webOS is even further behind. So for any company buying it, it should be worth less than it did a year ago.

Now, the patents on the other hand, might have risen in value. It’s because of all the recent huge bids on patents, which have raised the value of all the patents in the tech industry, like it or not. Still, if HTC wasn’t willing to pay $1.2 billion for it last year, I doubt they are willing to spend more than say $2 billion today. For that price, HP might actually recover all their money on the Palm acquisition, so it would be a win-win for both.

Some would say this is a danger for Android. But I ask, a danger compared to what? HTC has already adopted WP7, and if WP7 will ever amount to anything, then webOS is not a bigger danger to Android than WP7 ever was. But if WP7 was never going to succeed, and webOS does, then I suppose it could take away from some “potential” sales of Android phones in the future. But I don’t think it’s going to have a very big impact on Android overall.

The more dramatic impact might be on WP7. HTC is still a pretty tiny company, and I really don’t expect HTC to be able to sustain 3 different OS’s. The only reason they accepted WP7 in the first place is to not completely depend on Android (which they do, with the vast majority of revenue belonging to Android phones). So far WP7 has failed them in doing that.

If HTC actually buys webOS, and they become more successful with it than with their WP7 phones, I don’t think HTC will waste too much time thinking about which of the 3 OS’s to ditch. It’s not going to be webOS, because it’s theirs and they have an insurance no matter what the others do, just like Samsung has Bada. They can innovate with it however they want. They could take it in a completely different direction than the other mobile OS’s in the market.

It’s certainly not going to be Android. Android is growing at least twice as fast as any other mobile platform, and it already has 1 in 2 smartphones coming into the market. With something like 95% of their sales coming from Android phones, it would be suicide to ditch Android.

That leaves WP7. If manufacturers have to choose between the most popular mobile OS, who allows them a high degree of flexibility, their own OS where they’d have full flexibility, and another 3rd party OS, where they’d have the least control, and which hasn’t even proven itself to be successful, I think the choice is pretty easy. They would choose to give up on WP7.

If HTC buys webOS now, I figure Microsoft has about a year to convince HTC that WP7 is really worth it, because if HTC starts releasing webOS phones into the market, and they are more successful than the WP7 ones, or they at least initially show promise to do that in the future, HTC would become not only the first company to join the WP7 ecosystem, but also the first one to exit it.