It seems there are a number of lay-offs occurring at LG’s Silicon Valley Lab. Long-time readers will recall that is where the webOS TV operating system was developed after the original codebase and team were purchased from HP. A significant number of developers of the Enyo app development framework are also being cut.
Though this news may cause concern for webOS TV owners, especially in the light of the system’s previous history, it should be remembered that televisions have long been what smartphones have recently become: Low margin commodity items. LG have been offering even their OLED sets at competitive prices. Having reached version 2 of the widely admired interface, they may now be trimming the workforce to a ‘maintenance’ level, reducing the cost of the expensive stable of developers in the heart of the U.S. computer industry.
Of course, there are dangers here. In recent times, LG has decided that each arm of the company should justify it’s existence by at least breaking even. While this makes some financial sense, it could lead to the various parts of the company focusing solely on their own bottom lines or even competing with other parts when technology could be shared and economies of scale spread across the whole group. A system like webOS pretty much requires an eco-system of apps, services and hardware. Though the smartphone branch’s decision to stick with Android is understandable, other divisions moving towards connectivity, especially home appliances, could make use of webOS. We did see the debut of a webOS watch, but it seems the follow up watches will run Android rather than LG’s own product.
In the medium term, these lay-offs may have little noticeable effect for the consumer as minor fixes and iterations are made to the next few generations of the OS. However, there is of course the risk that a lack of continuing innovation will lead to stagnation. Additionally, when important members of the design team departed for Pebble, there was speculation that LG’s management were mis-handling webOS by allowing developers in Korea to add to the system with little reference to the U.S. design team and offering rewards for new features rather than prioritising the simplicity and ease of use that is the selling point of webOS. It is to be hoped that LG avoids the temptations of feature bloat and the danger of a cluttered, confusing interface. It may be that LG is simply managing it’s resources and may re-expand the development team in the future when major upgrades are needed.
Let us not forget the developers here. They are of course very skilled and given the current state of the industry, will probably find it fairly easy to find fresh employment. The severance packages are apparently generous. Nonetheless they have been let go just before a major seasonal holiday. Let’s salute them and the work they have put into webOS over the years and hope the new year brings fresh opportunities.
We will update this article if we get any further information or if LG issues a statement.
UPDATE: No statement for us, but it seems The Verge has a few more details.