updated 10:55 pm EDT, Fri July 8, 2011
Sprint drops long-time aliance with webOS
Sprint is quitting its one-time hope of a completely unique iPhone rival and dropping webOS from its lineup, contacts revealed Friday night. A reliable source for This is my next understood that the carrier was not only declining to carry the Pre3 but that HP doesn't have future hardware on the platform in the known schedule. It's not clear which side had quit the other.
Neither HP nor Sprint had commented on the rumor.
The long-term end to webOS support marks a complete reversal from Sprint's attitude towards the original Palm Pre in spring 2009. At one point, Sprint had gone out of its way to get an exclusive in the hopes the Pre would be its real challenger to the iPhone and orchestrated a rare high-profile launch on June 6 2009, just three days before Apple's WWDC event. Demand was enough to trigger minor shortages, and a then investor in Palm, Elevation Partners' Roger McNamee, was convinced that every iPhone user would switch over.
The Pre and eventually the Pixi were lauded for having real multitasking and deep social integration well ahead of others. A combination of dodgy build quality in the Pre, the iPhone 3GS' superior features for the price, and a $99 iPhone 3G quickly dried up Sprint's enthusiasm, however. The Sprint exclusive also ended up being a liability for Palm as it led to the Pre and Pixi missing a chance to preempt the Motorola Droid on Verizon, leading not just to a key advantage for Motorola but arguably the crucial sales spike that catapulted Android into competition with the iPhone in the US and even worldwide.
Sprint would eventually go on to call Pre sales a "disappointment" and swung its attention to the HTC Evo 4G, an Android flagship whose design was successful enough to end a three-year subscriber drought.
For HP, the move is a hit as it loses a carrier option at a time when it needs as much support as possible to grow. Deals made even before HP acquired Palm are still paying off, as AT&T and Verizon are still onside with phones like the Veer. Many had still expected that HP's financial clout would lead to more deals, though, and it could be a symbolic lack of distrust that could prevent HP from regaining more than a modest piece of US market share.