Shortly after HP announced the surprise termination of its mobile hardware business, Watson tweeted, "To Any Published WebOS Devs: We'll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, incl.free phones, dev tools, and training, etc."
Microsoft similarly offered to pay iPhone developers to bring their apps to Windows Phone 7 last summer, but that didn't result in a flock of attention for the new platform. Six months later, Microsoft's own developers were still complaining that they hadn't been paid and couldn't even see if their apps were selling.
At the same time, Microsoft was advertising that 15,000 developers were "signaling their intent to bring exciting content to Windows Phone," while claiming 3,000 apps in the pipeline.
Microsoft welcomes webOS developers
After getting "more than 500 emails" inquiring about the free smartphones, Watson replied, "to be honest, we didnt expect this level of response," adding that "It took a few days (on the weekend) to pull all the mails together into one place to allow me to respond in a smart way and not retype every mail by hand."
He concluded his note saying "We are psyched to have you aboard and to see what your imagination can do on the Windows Phone canvas," an interesting invitation given that Microsoft strongly downplayed the importance of apps as it prepared to relaunched Windows Mobile under the Windows Phone 7 brand, complete with a new UI that mixed features into a grid rather than calling attention to a library of apps.
Microsoft: a platform without first party hardware is "abandoned"
Microsoft has found itself trapped between its legacy of Windows Mobile, which once had a significant third party software platform, and its new Windows Phone 7 brand, which broke compatibility with the existing generation of stylus-driven apps to deliver a rethought user interface patterned after the Zune music player.
The company is planning to similarly remake Windows 7 to feature a touch-centric interface that runs web-based apps capable of running on ARM processors, tentatively dubbed Windows 8.
Watson claimed HP had "abandoned the [webOS] platform," despite HP's efforts to adopt a licensing business model that could actually bring webOS more into direct competition with Windows Phone 7 than it was formerly.
HP has maintained that it is not abandoning the platform, but rather just killing its hardware portfolio, although such a distinction may simply be semantic. However, Microsoft currently does not make first party hardware for its Windows, Windows Phone 7 or Slate PC platforms either.
Partner or prey?
HP was Microsoft's primary tablet partner last year when the two companies appeared on stage to tout Slate PC just prior to Apple's debut of the original iPad. HP subsequently purchased Palm and discontinued both its Windows 7 slate and its Windows Mobile smartphones in favor of its own webOS.
HP's Personal Systems Group continues to be the largest licensee of Microsoft's Windows PC platform, making Watson's unflattering digs at HP, whether automated or retyped by hand, a curious business strategy.