Yes I know, we all need to hear more speculations about the future of HP and webOS just as much as we need another cheap Chinese tablet PC knockoff. While the TouchPad is enjoying all the spoils of a wasted life there may still be hope for a bright future for Palm and webOS after all and that future might just lie in the hands of online retail giant Amazon.
Although it was inevitable and comes as no surprise, Amazon plans to be a top contender in the increasingly competitive tablet PC market and they proved that by announcing their Kindle Fire tablet earlier this week. On top of that, Amazon has also proven that they have no problem tweaking, customizing and reverse-engineering an already existing mobile OS, case in hand would be the Amazon optimized Android OS that comes installed with all Kindle Fire tablets. Hey it’s Amazon, it ain’t no thang.
Alright, now that we’ve heard the rumors that Amazon is negotiating with HP to acquire Palm and webOS this raises the question; how will this benefit Amazon and is it really worth their while? Keep in mind Amazon is not the only company trying to snag these patents up but let’s just pretend for now that they are the ones that do. For starters, Amazon could greatly improve upon webOS and use it to fuel the success of the Kindle Fire line of tablets. Sure, they’ve put a lot of work into refining their Amazon App Store and the first generation Kindle Fire tablet runs on the Android OS, but if Amazon is thinking long term (and it’s safe to say that they are) then having their own mobile OS would be a huge advantage for them.
There’s also the whole Microsoft scenario that Amazon is involved in. Microsoft signed a cross-licensing agreement with Amazon back in February of 2010. Since the new Kindle Fire tablet runs on the Android OS and is not covered in this agreement, well, let’s just say this is likely going to cost Amazon a very large amount in licensing fees, you know, one with a bunch of zero’s at the end. In the eyes of Microsoft each Android device currently on the market infringes upon their patents one way or another, thus the reason Microsoft is seeking royalties for each Android powered Kindle Fire unit that Amazon ships. The legal battles in the tech and mobile industry never seem to end, but if Amazon can purchase the rights and ownership of Palm and webOS this could get them off the hook with Microsoft in an amicable manner.
For this reason, if Amazon does acquire HP’s Palm and webOS, integrating it with their Kindle tablet or any other future tablet devices probably wouldn’t go on their “whenever we get around to it” list, rather they would likely be eager to free themselves of this burden with Microsoft sooner than later.
There are many different possibilities and outcomes and you have to look at situations like this from all angles and with an open mind. Although there are numerous potential benefits for Amazon if they acquire webOS, you have to remember in some cases there is just no saving a company when it swaps hands over and over again. With every swap, no matter how good the technology is sometimes, it depreciates in value and loses credibility. This attempt by Amazon to have their own tablet PC operating system could also potentially backfire.
Please allow me to further explain what I meant by that last paragraph. Now bare with me, I know this is not related to the tablet computer industry, but it’s just one of many examples of similar situations that sounded like a good idea at the time but later proved to be a big mistake. Case in point, Myspace or My_____ (formerly known as MySpace). Despite several attempts to bring the social networking service back to life as it turns out each attempt becomes more of a flop. Back in 2005 Myspace sold for a whopping $580 million. It did enjoy some success but it was very short lived. It was recently sold to Justin Timberlake for a mere $35 million dollars earlier this year and has been on the decline for quite some time. Myspace has gone from employing roughly 1,600 people in 2009 to employing only 200 people as of October of 2011. Even Justin Timberlake, an incredibly successful individual and highly popular celebrity with plenty of credibility, cannot revive Myspace despite all attempts. It’s a case of too little too late.
Will the same outcome occur with webOS, Palm and Amazon? Well, there’s a lot at stake here, many things are still up in the air, and as of this very moment it’s really anyone’s guess. One thing that is certain, although the tablet PC industry as a whole has enjoyed a large and sudden amount of success, in reality it’s still in its infancy and we’ve barely even seen the beginning of how big this industry is about to become. It’s like an Amazon jungle out there, pun intended, one filled with loads of competition & surprises.