by Shane O'Neill

WebOS Developers Consider Jumping Ship to Windows Phone 7

Aug 23, 20113 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMergers and AcquisitionsMobile

Microsoft will be losing a valued PC hardware partner in Hewlett-Packard. But it's not all bad news for Redmond. With HP's WebOS now marginalized, developers seeking a port in the storm may land at Windows Phone 7.

In the discussion about whether Hewlett-Packard’s PC spin-off and shuttering of its WebOS devices hurts or helps Microsoft, the pendulum is swinging toward “helps.”

Sure, having the number one PC-maker spin off (or sell off) its PC business unit is not a good reflection on where industry is going. As Microsoft stares down the barrel of declining PC sales and a slow shift toward tablet PCs and more sophisticated smartphones, losing its most valued PC hardware partner has to sting.

But when a door shuts, as they say, a window often opens. The HP PC spin-off may be a disruption for Microsoft Windows client OS, yet at the same time HP’s WebOS is now sitting in an even more tenuous position — and that’s good news for the folks in Redmond.

WebOS and Windows 8 would have been tablet competitors and WebOS and Windows Phone 7 would have smartphone competitors. I don’t mean to sound like WebOS is dead — HP has said it will give new life to the OS by licensing it to other hardware makers. But it’s safe to say that whatever threat WebOS was to Windows 8 on tablets and Windows Phones has been reduced as HP abandons its smartphone and tablet hardware.

Another advantage for Microsoft is that WebOS developers are now reportedly looking to get out. And Microsoft is welcoming them with open arms.

Windows Phone 7 director Brandon Watson (@BrandonWatson) sent out his tweet last Friday:

“To Any Published WebOS Devs: We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, phones, dev tools, and training, etc.”

Microsoft claims that this tweet generated more than 1,300 e-mails (as of Tuesday morning) from WebOS developers considering a move to the Windows Phone 7 platform. The software giant says it will provide new developers with Windows Phone 7 developer kits, new phones, tools and training. The number of Windows Phone 7 apps has been growing this year, reaching 25,000 apps in July. Of course, WebOS developers will also look to the more popular Android and Apple iOS mobile platforms, but the e-mail surge in response to Watson’s Windows Phone 7 twitter invitation does indicate that developers are considering the platform despite its low market share and struggles to find an audience.

Watson was admittedly caught off guard by the enthusiastic response from WebOS developers pursuing a new gig. Watson tried to answer all the e-mails over the weekend and early this week, but out of necessity has begun forwarding e-mails to regional Microsoft “mobile champs” to help get interested developers set up.

All Things D posted part of Watson’s e-mail response to the first 500 devs who expressed interest in the WP7 platform.

“First things first. Thank you so much for reaching out to the Windows Phone team to signal your interest in bringing your talents to our platform. To be honest, we didn’t expect this level of response, so we were caught a bit flatfooted.”

– Microsoft’s Brandon Watson, in a letter to the more than 500 WebOS developers who responded to his tweet last week offering phones, development tools and training to published webOS devs who would like to make a switch to Windows Phone.

The e-mail shows that Microsoft is scrambling to deal with the unexpectedly high volume of developers. But all things considered, this is a really good problem for Microsoft to suddenly have on its hands.