Should Amazon buy webOS?

So HP is dumping its webOS device business yet claims that webOS is not dead. HP will consider licensing webOS. But given HP’s recent announcements, who would want to license webOS from HP? Why should anyone believe that HP will properly maintain webOS going forward? Who would believe that any webOS engineers will stay at HP to maintain it? This all seems doubtful to me. If anyone really wants to use webOS in a product they would have to buy it from of HP.

webOS Smartphones? Nah!

This leads to the question, who would want to buy webOS? My first thought was that one of the Android smartphone makers (e.g. Samsung, HTC, LG, or Sony) would want it to protect themselves from the Google/Motorola marriage. As I thought it through it became doubtful any of those companies would be a candidate because, as good as webOS may be, it does not have the ecosystem necessary for a successful smartphone. There are no killer apps (e.g. gmail, Google calendar), no media store, no bookstore, no app store (well, there is an app store but with very few apps).

Amazon Tablet

The best candidate I could think of as a potential buyer of webOS is Amazon. There are two reasons for this. First, Amazon already has its own ecosystem that could make webOS successful. Second is that webOS gives Amazon autonomy.

The ecosystem

For any computing device to be successful it needs a supporting ecosystem. Nokia recognized this which is why they abandoned Symbian and Meego for Windows Phone. Amazon right now has an e-book store, a music store, a video store, an app store. Out of the box a consumer can purchase content (or use their existing content) and be ready to go. All of the pieces necessary are already in place.

It is well known that Amazon is working on its own Android based tablet for release this fall. From what I’ve heard, Amazon is heavily customizing the user experience so it won’t resemble the other Honeycomb tablets. If that is the case they could apply that experience to any OS they wanted. Amazon cares about selling content (music, movies, books) so they shouldn’t care which OS is running on the tablet as long as it can use the content and be a front end to their stores. Android does bring apps, but there are so few Android tablet specific apps so that is not a big advantage for Android. Amazon could also attract developers to its platform.

Amazon also has the capacity to switch to webOS. It certainly has the money to buy the OS from HP. It also has the development staff that is well versed in web technologies to develop apps.


So now that we determined that Amazon can buy webOS and provide the support to make it successful, why should it bother? Having their own OS will give Amazon control over their own destiny. With an Android tablet they are dependent on Google and with the Motorola deal, Google became a direct competitor in the tablet space. Google says they won’t play favorites with Android and maybe they won’t… today. But what about next year? Or the year after? What happens if there is a management change at Google and the new CEO decides hardware is an important part of the business?

None of this could change version 1 of the Amazon tablet, as it is way too late to change its direction, but that doesn’t mean a future tablet couldn’t be webOS based as long as all of the content can be moved across without problem. That should not be a big problem. There would be significant engineering costs to switch over but that could be a wise investment in the long run to rid it self of Google.

Now, I certainly wouldn’t bet on this coming to pass, but I don’t think it’s completely crazy either. Stranger things have happened.


About Lee J.

Mobile Guy!
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