Last Friday, HP finally made a decision on the fate of webOS: the mobile operating system will go open source, with HP providing support and retaining an active part in its development. The announcement made absolutely no mention of future, webOS-powered HP devices, but it sounds like HP hasn't ruled out the idea—quite the opposite.
In an interview with TechCrunch, HP CEO Meg Whitman and board member Marc Andreessen mentioned something that probably should have been in the original press release:
Andreessen says that because of the open source model, we’ll have a future with webOS-powered tablets and says HP will be one of those companies that will develop webOS tablets. Whitman says this may not happen in 2012, but will probably take place in 2013. She alluded to this a few weeks ago but it is certainly interesting that HP is going to be developing future hardware products on the WebOS operating system.
TechCrunch adds that, after the interview, HP clarified that it "could make WebOS-powered tablets in 2013." The word "could" sounds more lukewarm than the phrase "will probably," but it's definitely a step up over this summer's official statement—"HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices."
Now, is it really a good idea to wait over a year before re-entering the tablet market? By 2013, Windows 8 will be in the field, and iOS and Android will no doubt be more mature and polished than ever. HP will have its work cut out if it wants to promote a compelling fourth option that late in the game.