The webOS saga continues

Well, the webOS saga has already entered a new phase. The Next Web reports that Samsung is seriously considering buying webOS (in addition to hiring a former HP VC for marketing their PCs.)

So it’s outright sale, and not licensing. And it’s Samsung. Neither is unexpected; I predicted both a week ago. (And I must admit I’m very happy to finally get something right, even though it wasn’t a particularly complicated prediction.)

Android falling apart

So. Samsung doesn’t like the acquisition of Motorola by Google and is hedging its bets. It is likely that it will replace Android by webOS.

That won’t happen immediately; it’ll take at least six and possibly twelve months to actually design and develop a Galaxy webOS device (or however it’s going to be called), but this is not good news for Google. Android will lose one quarter of its market share at one stroke.

But Google made its cardinal mistake when it bought Motorola, and now it has to live with it. Its Android franchise is not going to survive unscathed.

Rushed reaction

Several mobile observers, for instance Michael Mace, feel that HP had been quietly shopping around with webOS for a while and didn’t have much success.

That could be, but I feel part of the reason HP seemed rushed with its announcement is the (correct) assumption that after the Motorola acquisition webOS would be worth a lot more money, being the only available OS that can take on Android and iOS. They’d hoped to instigate a bidding war (and for all we know a war may actually have taken place).

So HP’s announcement was rushed, and their marketing and communications had a few failwhale moments, but their reason for rushing was the MotoGoogle news, and strategically they made the right decision.

Fundamental question

The story isn’t over yet. It will be interesting to see how Samsung will try to gets its consumer base to switch from Android to webOS.

In fact, before another year has passed we may get an answer to what I consider the fundamental mobile OS question.

If Samsung switches its Galaxy line from Android to webOS, what will consumers do? Will they stick with Android because of their apps? Or will they go over to webOS because they don’t really care about the OS? Do phone vendors still have the liberty to switch to another OS while retaining most of their customers?

I don’t know the answer (nobody does), but it will be fascinating to see how much or little success Samsung will have with switching its consumer base to webOS. It will certainly need a well-filled webOS app ecosystem, and I already gave my advice on that.

Stay tuned.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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