HP webOS in limbo after TouchPad is killed

Photo browsing on the HP TouchPad.
James Martin/CNET
Photo browsing on the HP TouchPad.
James Martin/CNET

(CBS) - Hewlett-Packard has officially killed the HP TouchPad, leaving webOS in a precarious position.

We reported Thursday that computer giant HP hit the brakes the TouchPad, a computer tablet that has been widely considered a flop by tech journalists. Also on the chopping block were webOS phones.

Full coverage of HP on Tech Talk

"HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward," the company said in a statement released Thursday.

What is webOS and why is it a big deal?

All hardware, from desktop computers to smartphones, needs an operating system (OS) to create a user-friendly environment. Apple has iOS, RIM has BlackBerry OS, Google has Android, Microsoft has Windows Phone OS and HP has webOS. 

What makes webOS different is that it is a cloud-based OS. Meaning, it doesn't use a desktop program for syncing and updates. Instead of launching a program like iTunes, users are able to launch a website to sync contacts and data.

Is Apple's iPad to blame?

This will be a hotly debated topic for years to come. It's complicated, but our snap judgment is yes. When it comes to tablets, Apple is king. Historically, competitors have been able to compete with Apple's desktops and laptops because Windows machines are cheaper.

Apple has a cult-like following. Their fans are willing to pay the money because they've already made the decision to support the company, not just its products.

Although the TouchPad is an impressive tablet worthy of the price tag, it does not hold the same type of social status that only decades of Apple-brand marketing can provide.

What's next for HP and webOS?

HP only said that they would "continue to explore options to optimize the value of WebOS software going forward."

It would probably be a waste of resources to trash webOS completely, especially since it has been met with critical acclaim. There has been much speculation over whether or not HP will license webOS out to hardware companies like HTC or Samsung, which will put it in the company of Google and Microsoft.

With Google marching into the hardware business, after its purchase of Motorola Mobility, it would make sense for hardware companies to diversify their operating systems further.

Who knows? There could be a new life out there for webOS. We'll keep our eyes peeled.