HP to release Windows 8 tablet in 2012, future of webOS uncertain

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Hewlett Packard will continue to produce tablet PCs, and they will be powered by the Windows 8 operating system, the company said during a call with market analysts on Thursday. The future of its webOS mobile OS remains uncertain. 

“We’re at the beginning stages of a new segment,” said HP Chief Executive Meg Whitman. “I hardly think that we’re too late, the work we’re doing with Microsoft is extraordinarily compelling, ultraportables are compelling.”

Prior to the analyst call on Thursday, Whitman announced that the company will not sell or spin off its PC business, the so-called Personal Systems Group (PSG), a move that HP’s previous CEO, Leo Apotheker, said was a possibility prior to his ousting. In the official announcement about the decision, HP did not specify whether tablets, along with desktops and laptop computers, would remain apart of the company’s production portfolio. 

According to Whitman, HP’s first Windows 8 tablet will launch sometime next year. 

The company also plans to reduce the number of products it manufactures, says Whitman, to give greater focus to producing a small number of quality computers. 

“One of my observations is that HP tries to do a lot of things,” said Whitman. “And I am big believer in doing a small number of things really, really well — set them up, knock them down, set them up, knock them down.”

WebOS, the mobile OS HP purchased along with Palm last year for $1.2 billion, may be among the products cut by HP, as it streamlines its business. Earlier this year, HP liquidated its inventory of the webOS-based TouchPad tablet by slashing the price of the device down to as little as $99.

“I think we need to be in the tablet business,” said Tom Bradley, executive vice president of the PSG, as quoted by the L.A. Times. “And we are certainly going to be there with Windows 8, and so we are going to be make another run at this business…. We’re going to make a decisions about the long-term future of webOS within HP over the next couple of months.

“And as soon as we make that decision we will let you know on that. Because many people have said to me, ‘Well, isn’t the webOS decision just completely tied to [PSG]?’ The answer to that is actually no. WebOS has obviously used in the PSG business, but also in other businesses that we have. So it’s actually — we have to make a more holistic decision around webOS.”

[Pictured: HP TouchPad]

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