HP Trims WebOS Staff by 275

By Beecher Tuttle February 29, 2012

As if they hadn't been put through enough in the last two years, Hewlett-Packard's webOS team was slashed in half on Tuesday when CEO Meg Whitman cut 275 employees from the company's mobile software unit.

The news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by HP, isn't all that surprising considering Whitman's December announcement that webOS would become an open-source project. Couple that with the fact that HP hasn't built any webOS-based hardware since its ill-fated TouchPad launch last summer, and the layoffs make a great deal of sense.

"As webOS continues the transition from making mobile devices to open-source software, it no longer needs many of the engineering and other related positions that it required before," an HP spokesperson noted in a statement to Business Insider. "This creates a smaller and more nimble team that is well equipped to deliver an open source webOS and sustain HP's commitment to the software over the long term."

The move ends a long two-year stretch for a few hundred webOS employees who HP inherited after the $1.2 billion Palm acquisition in 2010. Let's recap.

After a late start, HP entered the tablet race in the summer of 2011 with its highly-touted webOS-powered TouchPad device, which sold so poorly HP was forced to knock the price down on several occasions, eventually bottoming out at $99, or $500 less than the original asking price.

The flop led, in part, to several headline-making decisions by then-CEO Leo Apotheker, who replaced former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein as the head of the webOS unit, fired around 500 webOS employees then decided to shutter HP's entire hardware business (a move that was later overturned by Whitman after Apotheker was fired).

With the new regime in place, the webOS team was forced to sit on their hands for several months as their fate was decided. Reports then began to surface that Whitman and HP were considering unloading the mobile OS and selling it to the highest bidder – like Oracle, Amazon or even RIM. Whitman then called a meeting and told the company that she was taking a "wait-and-see approach" to webOS.

The decision was finally made in December to take webOS open source. HP kept the remaining staff intact for the last two months as it has been incrementally rolling out additional webOS code to developers. With the final cuts, the webOS is down to around 325 employees  who would be understandably frazzled after the last two years.

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

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