Setting webOS up as Plan B is the wrong attitude
Yesterday HP CEO Meg Whitman spoke at the HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas, touching on HP's multi-year commitment to webOS. It's stuff we like to hear - that even though it will take a lot of time and investment, HP will stick with webOS over the long term.
And then Whitman went and said that webOS has an opportunity for adoption with Google's recently-approved purchase of Motorola. The idea is that the Google+Motorola hook-up could eventually lead to Android become closed source or a closed system as the two entities become more closely tied. While we have little doubt that Google will eventually play a strong hand in the planning, design, and execution of Motorola's portfolio, we also have little doubt that Android is going to go away any time soon, a point we discussed at length yesterday.
We don't need to go over again the points behind why Whitman's statement was off base. What we do feel the need to touch on is the attitude that could bring about such statements, the attitude that for webOS to succeed, Android must falter.
There's no denying that Android and iOS are the juggernauts in the mobile space. You know that the world has changed when Microsoft is the one struggling to gain even a sliver of marketshare. There's also no denying that Microsoft, BlackBerry, and webOS are facing an uphill battle on four separate fronts: customers, carriers, manufacturers, and developers. Apple and Google (and Google's hardware and carrier partners) have such momentum and talent pushing them forward that to hope they falter is like hoping Verizon falters so T-Mobile can take advantage.
It's not going to happen. Even if Apple or Google falters, they're not going to falter hard. How many missteps has the iPhone endured over the past few years? Lack of apps, lack of copy-paste, lack of multitasking, antennagate, locationgate, factory conditions, and so on and so forth. Android too has had its own share of issues and scandals. Yet every time they recover and come out stronger on the other side.
HP cannot position webOS as the open source fallback to Android. Sure, manufacturers are likely to give it a second look now that it's going to be free, and they're surely worried about Google's close relationship with Motorola. But they're going to keep making Android handsets for one simple reason: they sell, and they sell well.
Apple and Google were able to get into the position they're in because Microsoft had grown complacent. You can't count on that happening again soon enough for webOS to be a relevant player in the mobile market.
Customers, carriers, manufacturers, and developers need a reason to switch to or support webOS. "Android worries us" isn't going to work until it's accompanied by "We're making less money off of Android." Pitch the open development of webOS so that manufacturers can openly offer their input. Pitch the ease of Enyo app development and the ability to deploy those apps across multiple platforms to developers. Pitch the ease of multitasking, the power of synergy, and the straightforward simplicity of notifications to users.
Don't pitch that webOS should be Plan B.