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HP to spin off webOS division as Gram stealth subsidiary

Mystery software venture to focus on webOS, Enyo, cloud

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The Hewlett Packard global business division formerly known as Palm is in major upheaval yet again, as HP moves to spin off its webOS team into a new subsidiary, to be called Gram.

The new venture was announced at an internal meeting late last week, webOS Nation reports, but exactly what Gram is being launched to accomplish remains something of a mystery.

Newly christened Gram employees are being told to treat the venture as they would a startup. They can discuss what they're doing with close friends and family, but outsiders are to be told only, "Gram is a new company. We are in stealth mode on our product offering."

A document leaked to webOS Nation elaborates on that description, explaining, albeit not very helpfully:

Gram is a new company leveraging the core strengths of webOS, Enyo and our Cloud offerings as well as the firepower of our partners to create a technology that will unleash the freedom of the Web.

If that doesn't sound ambitious enough for you, a tagline on the same document reads, "Potent. Light. Nimble. At the core of all things big and small."

How all of these pieces will fit together is open for anyone to speculate. Notably absent from these scant phrases, however, is any mention of hardware.

HP has not marketed any new consumer devices based on the webOS platform since August 2011, when it axed its entire line just weeks after shipping the first TouchPad fondleslabs. It later sold off its remaining inventory at fire sale prices and issued pink slips to 525 employees of the former Palm's hardware division.

That would seem to leave Gram squarely a software company, but its mission to "create a technology" suggests that webOS and its open source Enyo UI framework are only a starting point for the new venture, and that its actual product will be something we have not yet seen.

Or not. The webOS team we see at HP today doesn't much resemble the one that came over from Palm, and in its present form its track record for commercial success is exactly zero.

Jon Rubinstein, who was instrumental in developing webOS at Palm, resigned his position in January, just 19 months after HP acquired the device maker. A month later, HP cut its webOS staff in half, leaving it with just over 300 engineers.

Since then, the group has devoted most of its energy to releasing its remaining software assets as open source projects.

Although no formal word was given as to when Gram would be announced to the public, sources say more information may be forthcoming as soon as the end of next month. ®

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