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HP kills TouchPad and Pre

HP is dumping webOS, the TouchPad and the Pre. Are there simply too many players in the smart phone market?

HP is unhappy. The company formerly known as Hewlett Packard will stop supporting the webOS operating system it bought from Palm just over a year ago. webOS powers the HP TouchPad and Pre smart phones, which in effect means these devices are dead in the water, and the company is pulling out of the phone and tablet markets altogether. 

In a statement, HP said it intends to "discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones". The company has -- had -- a few irons in the fire, with the HP Pre 3 and Veer smart phones in the works. It was even considering a souped-up white TouchPad.

There was also talk of sticking webOS on gadgets made by other companies, which is apparently still a possibility -- but who'd want to bother when they can go with Android? The news is a huge blow for any smaller operating system, with such a major player as HP acknowledging that the market is just too crowded.

It's not just phones and tablets that are to be culled: HP is also selling off its Personal Systems Group, which makes PCs. Who could buy it? We reckon Taiwanese company Acer might be hunting around the back of the drawers trying to remember where it left the chequebook.

HP is one of the world's biggest computer companies, selling 1 million printers and 48 million PCs every year -- hecknabbit, we're writing this story on one right now. HP reckons its software is used by 300 million mobile phone users too.

But the company has clearly realised the writing is on the wall in the consumer market. It's a shame, because we liked the webOS system of virtual cards to shuffle apps, and it looked great -- half the battle when it comes to a user interface. Sadly the HP TouchPad failed to thrill when we tried it out.

It seems HP is the first to face up to the facts, leaving one less player in the smart phone and tablet game. Right now there are two major players with a significant headstart on branding, apps and technology: Apple makes the most money and Google's Android shifts the most units. In these days of apps and ecosystems, HP's decision serves as a stark warning to other minority players like Research in Motion's BlackBerry and QNX, Nokia's MeeGo and even Microsoft's Windows Phone.

Is HP right to get out of the game? Should other minority operating systems follow suit? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.