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HP Confirms WebOS Layoffs, But Won't Talk Numbers

HP has begun laying off staff in its WebOS business unit, although the company apparently still sees some kind of future for WebOS software.

An HP spokesperson confirmed the layoffs in a Tuesday e-mail to CRN but declined to specify how many employees were involved. But according to a Monday report from AllThingsD, HP is laying off as many as 525 employees from the WebOS business unit.

Despite the workforce reduction, the spokesperson said HP is still exploring its options for WebOS software.

"During this time, we stand by our commitments to our WebOS customers and will work to ensure that support and service for customers are not adversely affected," the spokesperson said.

This is essentially what HP executives have been saying ever since the company's Aug. 18 third quarter earnings call, in which HP revealed its intention to kill the TouchPad and explore a potential spin-off or sale of its Personal Systems Group.

HP subsequently cut the price of its 16-GB TouchPad to $99 and its 32-GB TouchPad to $149, triggering a feeding frenzy from bargain hunters that quickly exhausted supplies. HP is planning one final production run for the TouchPad, and Stephen DeWitt, head of HP's WebOS business unit, has repeatedly said WebOS software still has a future.

"The WebOS is not dead," DeWitt told Bloomberg in late August. "We’re going to continue to evolve it, update and support it. We stand by it."

Earlier this month at the InformationWeek 500 conference, HP Chairman Ray Lane said WebOS still has plenty of strategic value to the company. "We see that as a viable, commercial web development platform … But I don't think we have been loud enough. We have not talked about our intentions with WebOS enough," Lane said.

At the same event, Shane Robison, chief strategy and technology officer, said WebOS could add value to HP's enterprise business.

"WebOS, the OS itself, is an incredibly efficient Web-oriented operating system. But sitting on top of WebOS is even more important, and that's the development environment called Enyo, for those of you who know WebOS. It is the leading Web app development environment today," Robison said.

HP plans to shutter its WebOS hardware business, which includes the HP TouchPad tablet and the Pre3 and Veer smartphones, by the end of its fiscal year on Oct. 31.

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