HP’s Failed webOS Experiment Cost Them $3.3 Billion, But What’s Next?

We knew that HP’s gamble on webOS was an expensive one, but thanks to the company’s Q4 and full-year financials, we’re finally getting a feel for just how dearly the webOS experiment cost them. This past year, the company lost a staggering $3.3 billion thanks to their most recent foray into the mobile space.

I know I’m not the first to say this, nor will I be the last, but one word comes to mind: Ouch.

HP’s financial results also reveal that the TouchPad fire sale netted HP $200 million in revenue, though the tablets were sold below cost. It certainly explains why the company seems intent on using their remaining TouchPads to drive sales across their other product lines. It’s perhaps a fitting end for the TouchPads — the HP tablet that didn’t sell was used to support a division of HP’s business they nearly sold.

I was a very big fan of webOS (the Pre was the first phone I ever sat in line for), and to see it lose support so unceremoniously was actually sort of painful. Frankly speaking it was unlikely that webOS would have ever become a major player in the market, but it still embodied a few concepts (cards/multitasking, for one) that deserve to live on. And live on they may, if HP can decide what the next step is.

As Greg pointed out a few months ago, webOS isn’t completely dead yet — rather, it’s stuck in OS limbo while HP decides what to do with it. Earlier reports suggested that HP would sell off webOS to whomever wanted it most, but newly-installed CEO Meg Whitman said it was important to make “the right decision, not the fast decision,” and held off on the sale. Now that we understand how much webOS cost HP, I’m surprised HP didn’t cut webOS free as soon as they could, but the waiting game continues and we’re still left without answers.

So, with the year’s numbers on the books, HP has a decision to make: should they go ahead and sell webOS? Or should they take the “expensive bet” and give webOS another go? Or should they pursue some other unseen option? Meg Whitman said that answers would come within the span of a few weeks, and that time is running out. What’s it going to be, Meg?