HP TouchPad, the first device other than a handset to feature webOS, aptly demonstrates the promise and perils of HP's adopted operating system. The 4:3 tablet provides the large canvas that webOS seemed born to cover. However, like the Xoom and PlayBook before it, the TouchPad suffers from an impoverished app library among other holes. To help share development costs of webOS and expand the market for its developers, HP has warmed to the idea of licensing the Palm-developed operating system.
HP's willingness to license webOS while continuing to make devices based on the operating system serves up a healthy helping of déjà vu for those who followed the history of Palm, Inc. The PDA pioneer sought to take advantage of its dominance in handhelds, and stave off rival Pocket PCs powered by Windows CE, by licensing the Palm operating system while continuing to use it.
The decision proved to be Palm's short-term salvation and long-term ruin. One of the first companies to license the Palm OS was Handspring, founded by former Palm executives. Handspring created the Treo, which became Palm's entry into smartphones when Palm acquired Handspring. A few other companies licensed the Palm OS for smartphones, including Kyocera and Samsung, but the inherent conflict created by competing with licensees forced Palm to spin Palm OS out into a company called PalmSource, which folded three years later.