updated 10:55 pm EDT, Mon August 22, 2011
HP leak backs Dartfish, more devices
HP's decision to get out of webOS hardware may have come as much from HP's top-level commands as anything from the webOS team. Insiders in the former Palm group disclosed that having HP onside hadn't translated to more resources. Staff focusing on one project have often delayed another, leading to hardware that was often several months overdue, GDGT heard.
Rapidly shifting prioritization also ended up hurting the prospects for multiple devices, many of which are now known to be real. The Windsor would have shipped in late 2010 but had kept missing deadlines and was reportedly hurt by management. The Stingray, a full-touch phone likened to the HTC Evo 4G, had reached the very end of the prototype stage but had missed multiple critical software milestones. The seven-inch TouchPad Go was indeed close and in debugging, but its fate wasn't clear.
HP's long-rumored Dartfish is now known to have been real and would have been a smartbook-style design that would have almost been a revival of the Foleo, albeit a much more capable, self-contained device.
While some of Palm's existing staff may have been to blame, HP may have made a critical mistake in pushing the TouchPad too hard. Virtually all of the software team was devoted to finishing the tablet, but HP decided to push the design out the door at the objections of then team leader Jon Rubinstein. The former Apple executive was proven right as early reviews complained about the buggy state of the OS at the time, only to see much of it fixed just a few weeks later.
WebOS developers, who were mostly caught by surprise by the news of the hardware cancellations, are still hoping for a last-ditch plan to save the hardware initiatives. Some are using the runaway TouchPad clearance success as evidence that people want webOS hardware and just weren't happy with certain conditions. CEO Leo Apotheker may not be sympathetic given his emphasis on enterprise and his belief that the iPad is killing HP's devices.
Without a hardware revival, many of those still in the webOS team feel the platform is dead given that they have no hardware to focus on.